The health, beauty and ecosystem of our beaches is under threat

The driving cause for most of these problems is overdevelopment and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline, there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

Coastal Care Introduction

“Beach sand: so common, so complex, so perfect for sandcastles; and now it is a precious and vanishing resource.”

—Orrin H. Pilkey

Beaches are the most visited natural attraction on the planet. The coast attracts millions of vacationing people each year. People love the sand, the surf, the sea breeze, and the vacation ambiance so much that many come to the beach to stay. There is a magical feeling living near the ocean, but human migration towards the coast comes with a high environmental price tag.

A majority of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the coast and the projections are 75% by the year 2025. This strip of land represents only 3% of the total land mass of the planet. In this context, it is easier to understand the environmental impact. Over 70% of the earth is covered by water and with so many people living on the coast, we are polluting a major source of food, the oceans.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

The loss of life and economic impacts of major storms – cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes – and tsunamis would be reduced drastically if beaches were not developed. Unfortunately, recent examples of the problem are numerous: 1999 Indian cyclone Orissa (over 10,000 dead and $5 billion in damage), 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani (over 250,000 dead), 2005 Hurricane Katrina (over 1,800 killed and $80 billion in damage), and 2008 Hurricane Ike (over 30 killed and $30 billion in damage).

Today, the health, beauty, and ecosystem function of the world’s beaches are under threat and the driving causes for most of these problems are over-development and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

It is important to distinguish between erosion and erosion problems. Erosion refers to the landward retreat of the shoreline. Most of the world’s shorelines are eroding, a very few are building out (accreting). There is no erosion problem, however, until someone builds something next to a shoreline. All over the world in remote areas, shorelines are slowly retreating and no one cares. In a global sense, our continents are slowly shrinking, and in a very real sense, erosion problems are man made. On a high-rise, condo-lined shoreline like those in Spain and the Florida coast, erosion is a huge problem and will only worsen in the future as sea level rise accelerates. Sea level rise will accelerate erosion of the shoreline and have a dramatic impact on our infrastructures, our economies, and our way of life.

Sea level rise is one of the most important causes of global shoreline erosion. If the coastline is developed, shoreline armoring is often used in an effort to save the buildings from the eroding shoreline. Once this begins, the beaches will degrade and eventually be lost. In the long-term, however, these armoring efforts are in vain. The ocean will continue to rise as the rate of sea level rise is expected to increase as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continue to degrade. The situation is made worse now because beach houses and condominiums are being built closer to the ocean than they were 25 years ago. Many of us are familiar with images of large beach houses about to fall victim to the oceans simply from daily erosion accelerated by the ever rising sea.

The work of the Santa Aguila Foundation will emphasize the impacts of sand mining and shoreline armoring: the first because the effects of sand mining have been largely ignored on a global scale and the latter due to its overwhelming negative impacts on the world’s beaches.

Surfing in / Inform

EPA Implicates Fracking In Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking, a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells, may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.

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Wetlands focus on climate talks sideline

Wetlands, critical for the health of South Africa’s coasts and river systems, already have been degraded or seriously altered by human activity, and experts fear global warming threatens them further.

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Fishing Community Against Mining Sea For Sand, India

Fishing community in the Kerala state, under the banner of the National Fishworkers Forum, has opposed finance minister K M Mani’s suggestion to mine sea sand for use in local construction, and sand exportation, mainly to Singapore.

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Chinese Boat Seized Over Illegal Sand Mining In Kinmen, Taiwan

Coastguards have arrested the captain of a chinese sand dredger illegally dredging sand in Kinmen waters. So far it is the fourth chinese boat arrested for attempting to steal sand from around the island.

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Arctic settles into new phase: warmer, greener, and less ice

An international team of scientists who monitor the rapid changes in the Earth’s northern polar region say that the Arctic is entering a new state, one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry.

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Number of sea turtles visiting Kerala shores dwindling, India

Unpolluted Kerala beaches have always been the favourite nesting grounds for marine turtles, but their imprints may soon be washed away for ever.

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Mangrove: The Root Of The Matter

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami disaster that struck Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey explored how these unique trees hemming the shorelines, which make up valuable forest ecosystems called mangroves, help safeguard lives, property and beaches during hurricanes, tsunamis and floods.

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Climate Change And Global Security

Once viewed as an issue of interest only to greens or academics, the threat posed by climate change to security is now eyed with deepening concern by politicians and defence chiefs. Droughts and floods which devastate crops and rising seas which imperil coastal cities will become potent triggers for tensions and unrest, say experts.

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Environment Ministry Removes Obstacles To Sand Mining, India

News, Sand Mining

A recent survey by WWF-India along the coast of the Kerala State, had revealed the frightening picture of the extent of illegal coastal beach sand-mining being conducted by organised groups in various places. The Government’s approval for coastal sand mining by local communities using manual methods will have disastrous consequences as the provisions of the order will be twisted by the vested interests, said the State Director of WWF.

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Recent / Inform

As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas

November 20th, 2010

Researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica. The question is not whether the earth’s land ice is melting in response to the greenhouse gases people are generating, but whether it will happen much too fast for society to adjust.

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Kiribati Conference: Voices From the South Pacific – Part II

November 19th, 2010

At only four metres above sea level, the small island nation of Kiribati is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Kiribati’s Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) ended by giving birth to the Ambo Declaration.

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Water Flows and Coastal Ecosytems

November 18th, 2010

One of biggest factors promoting the diversity of coastal ocean life is how fast the water flows, according to new research by scientists at Brown University.

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EPA Tells Coastal States to Consider Rising Ocean Acidity

November 16th, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says some states with coastal waters that are becoming more acidic because of carbon dioxide, should list them as impaired.

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Parts of Los Angeles County ban plastic bags

November 16th, 2010

Parts of Los Angeles County have joined other California communities in banning stores from using single-use plastic bags.

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Caribbean Reef Ecosystems May Not Survive Repeated Stress

November 16th, 2010

Coral reefs suffered now record losses as a consequence of high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005, according to the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date.

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Record number of British beaches reach highest European standards

November 15th, 2010

The number of blue flag beaches in England fell from 82 in 2008 to 71 last year, largely as a result of detritus and pollution. However, 86.2% of beaches (425) in England and Wales meet higher guideline standards this year, a huge increase from previous figures.

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Rare Cold Water Coral Discovered off the Coast of Mauritania

November 13th, 2010

A rare cold water coral reef has been discovered off the coast of Mauritania in Northern Africa, the first time such a reef has been found this far south.

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Enormous Levels of Illegal Turtle Harvesting on Beaches, Madagascar

November 12th, 2010

The study is the first direct assessment of the level of exploitation of turtles in Madagascar. Similar harvests exist in many countries in the tropical coastal developing world, so this isn’t an isolated issue, but clearly it is a cause for concern when dealing with endangered species.

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Third Nuclear Power Plant Discharge Destroying Kenting’s Reefs

November 12th, 2010

Thermal discharge from the Third Nuclear Power Plant is behind the rapid destruction of Kenting National Park’s coral reef, Taiwan.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
One Percent