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

Belize Protected Area Boosting Predatory Fish Populations

Sensitive coral reef ecosystems require a delicate balance of marine life to thrive. From the barracudas at the top of the food chain to the algae at the bottom, the system works together to keep itself healthy. A 14-year study by the WCS in an atoll reef lagoon in Glover’s Reef, Belize, has found that fishing closures there produce encouraging results.

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Mexico Says 1,500-barrel Oil Spill Controlled

News, Pollution

Mexico’s Environment Department says a spill of 1,500 barrels of oil from a pipeline near the Gulf coast has been brought under control, and about 40 percent of the oil has been recovered. Video from the scene shows the banks of the river coated in black sludge.

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Nigeria’s Oil Disasters Are Met By Silence

News, Pollution

The global media have had little to say on Nigeria’s latest oil spill and the hundreds of others that have destroyed so many lives. In any other region of the world the behaviour of the oil companies involved would result in major sanctions and criminal prosecutions…

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Disaster zone as oil slick threatens Christmas Island

News, Pollution

Christmas Island is bracing for an environmental and economic crisis after a stricken Panama-flagged MV Tycoon container ship split in two at Flying Fish Cove yesterday afternoon, having been ripped from its berth by a big swell, and leaked tonnes of pollutants into its pristine waters. Experts warned that the spill was a potential disaster for the ecologically important area, with crabs, birds and coral all threatened.

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Rena Cargo Washing up On beaches

News, Pollution

Months after Bay of Plenty locals cleared their beaches of oil and container debris, the job has begun again as the stricken Rena loses more cargo overboard. Officials were warning beachgoers to stay away from the debris that has washed ashore.

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Stricken cargo ship Rena breaks up off New Zealand

News, Pollution

Cargo ship Rena which struck the well-marked Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga, New Zealand on 5 October has broken in two last night, spilling containers and threatening a new oil spill.

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The true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools, including the author, who went in search of them. A book by Donovan Hohn.

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Hawaii to Add Sand to Chronically Eroding Waikiki Beach

A $2.3 million state project to widen a chronically eroding section of Waikiki beach with sand pumped in from offshore, will begin by the end of this month. Waikiki naturally has a narrow beach, and people have been adding sand to the shoreline to make it wider. The earliest beach replenishment projects are believed to date to the 1920s. The first well-documented case was in 1939…

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Hundreds Evacuated Amid Dutch Dike Break Fears

Police and military personnel evacuated 800 people from four villages in the low-lying northern Netherlands amid fears of a dike break following days of drenching rains. A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level and 55 percent of the country is considered susceptible to flooding.

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Recent / Inform

Battling Ghana’s Eroding Coastline

December 13th, 2010

For Ghana, the real story of coastal erosion is not about what lies at the water’s edge, but what occurs beneath the waves offshore. In the capital city of Accra, an estimated 70 percent of the beach is eroding at rates exceeding 3 feet per year.

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Climate change still a hard sell, especially when it’s freezing out

December 10th, 2010

The climatic consequences of our actions will fall mostly upon others, in other parts of the world and in that distant country, the future.

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Global Warming Mapped, NASA


December 10th, 2010

The world is getting warmer. Whether the cause is human activity or natural variability, thermometer readings all around the world have risen steadily since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

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Some Coral Reefs Less Vulnerable to Rising Sea Temperatures

December 10th, 2010

The findings hold promise for an estimated 100 million people living along the coasts of tropical developing countries whose livelihoods and welfare depend directly on coral reefs.

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How Do Marine Turtles Return To The Same Beach To Lay Their Eggs?

December 9th, 2010

Marine turtles almost always return to the same beach to lay their eggs. The egg-laying beaches are often far from the feeding areas and the females cross several hundred kilometers of ocean with no visual landmarks.

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Illegal Sea Sand Dredging Leaves Behind Environmental Mess, China

December 8th, 2010

China’s economic boom has triggered unprecedented number of construction projects. The regular supply of sand has almost run out and many construction firms have been using sand from the sea, illegally, and leaving behind an environmental mess. The coastline in Rizhao, Shandong, has retreated more than 100 meters due to excessive sea sand dredging.

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Plastic Waste Pollutes Adriatic coast

December 7th, 2010

Such pollution is a regular occurrence, but it has increased this year.

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Land Reclamation at Rotterdam, Netherlands

December 7th, 2010

The Port of Rotterdam is already Europe’s biggest port, but the Maasvlakte 2 Land Reclamation Project will triple its container capacity in one bold stroke. Stretching 3 miles beyond the former coastline, Maasvlakte 2 will be as large as Midtown and Downtown Manhattan combined.

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If an island state vanishes, is it still a nation?

December 6th, 2010

No country has ever physically disappeared, and it’s a real void in the law. The Marshallese government faced with set of issues unique in the history of the system of nation-states associated with sea level rise impacts that are not adequately addressed in the international legal framework, seeks advice from the Center for Climate Change Law at New York’s Columbia University. Legal scholars worldwide have been asked to assemble at Columbia, next May to begin to piece together answers.

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National monument status urged for Arctic refuge


December 5th, 2010

The US President is being urged to bestow national monument status on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for its 50th anniversary in what supporters say would finally put the refuge’s coastal plain beyond the reach of oil companies. National monument status could put an estimated 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil beyond the grasp of oil companies forever.

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