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

Oil On canvas

The oil prints featured in this video were made with birds killed by the Rena oil spill. It is hoped that Oil On Canvas exhibition can serve as a memorial to the creatures that lost their lives and as a stark reminder of the devastation an oil spill can cause, and warning against the far greater risk posed by deep sea oil drilling.

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Haiti’s Unnatural Floods

The nearly complete deforestation of Haiti has caused countless problems for the country, the people, and its biodiversity.

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Deep Gulf Drilling Thrives 18 mos. After BP Spill

Two hundred miles off the coast of Texas, ribbons of pipe are reaching for oil and natural gas deeper below the ocean’s surface than ever before.

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Oil Washes Ashore in Nigeria

News, Pollution

Nigerian villagers and environmental groups say that oil washing up on the coast must be from the recent Royal Dutch Shell loading accident, which caused the biggest offshore spill in the country’s waters in 13 years. Shell denies that the oil is from the spill, saying its dispersal efforts prevented any of that crude from washing ashore.

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20 Tonnes Of Dead Herrings Wash Up On Norwegian Coast

Norwegians have been left puzzled at the sight of thousands of dead herring fishes carpeting the beach of Kvaenes, in the northerly district of Nordreisa with some wondering if a predator had driven them to their death or a storm had washed them ashore.

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Fire destroys 1,500 hectares of Patagonia forest

A raging fire has destroyed or seriously damaged 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of vegetation in a Patagonia nature preserve in southern Chile.

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Tatai River Sand Dredging Resumes, Cambodia

News, Sand Mining

In October Ly Yong Phat’s LYP Group had respected an agreement to stop sand dredging on the Tatai River in Koh Kong province by mid-October. But rather than respecting the written agreement from July 16, LYP had simply subcontracted out to another company to keep on dredging sand.

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Vietnam: Police Takes Action Against Illegal Sand Dredging

Bien Hoa City Police and the waterway traffic police in the southern province of Dong Nai, gave chase to nine boats seen illegally dredging sand.

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Oily: How A San Francisco Oil Spill Took Its Toll On Fish

The impacts of an oil spill does not end when Anderson Cooper goes home… A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at the aftermath of a 2007 oil spill in San Francisco Bay, and finds the accidents has had lingering effects on local fish, effects that continued well after the spill was cleaned up.

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Recent / Inform

55 Percent of Venice Under Acqua Alta, Italy

December 4th, 2010

Three main factors have worsened the high water in Venice, experts say; the rising floor of the lagoon caused by incoming silt, the subsidence of the city by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice, and the worldwide increase in sea levels caused by global warming.

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Cancun’s Beaches: Vanishing Sand and Wasted Money

December 4th, 2010

In a major restoration project last year, millions of cubic yards (meters) of sand were dredged from the sandy bottom of the Caribbean and pumped ashore in Cancun. The project created a seven-mile stretch of beach some 40 to 70 yards (meters) wide, at a cost of about $70 million. It is already washing away.

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Sand Mafia Fill 600 Trucks a Day, Thane District India

December 3rd, 2010

The district administration does not have manpower to control highways and look out for the sand mafia.

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Many Coastal Wetlands Likely to Disappear this Century

December 1st, 2010

Many coastal wetlands worldwide, including several on the U.S. Atlantic coast, may be more sensitive than previously thought to sea-level rise projections for the 21st century.

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Charging for Plastic Bags Cut Bag Consumption by Half in China

November 29th, 2010

An environmental-economic evaluation of the Chinese ordinance against free plastic bags shows that people in China, the number one consumers of plastic bags in the world, reduced their consumption of plastic bags by half when stores were forced to charge consumers for the bags.

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Norfolk, Virginia, Tackles Rise in Sea

November 27th, 2010

Like many other cities, Norfolk was built on filled-in marsh.

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The Last house of Sinking Chesapeake Bay Island

November 27th, 2010

The story was strange enough to be a child’s fable: In an isolated section of the Chesapeake Bay, there was a two-story Victorian house that seemed to emerge directly from the water. And, scurrying around it, there was a retiree, trying to keep the house from falling in.

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Cancún must be about more than climate change

November 27th, 2010

Our planet is finite, our fates are intertwined, our choice is clear: stand together or fall divided.

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Blue Flag or Red Herring: Do beach awards encourage the public to visit beaches?

November 26th, 2010

Surveys of beach visitor motivation in Ireland, Wales, Turkey and the USA indicate that beach awards play an insignificant role in motivation to visit beaches.

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Bangladesh and Maldives: Sand Export Deal in Sight

November 26th, 2010

Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed expressed keenness to import sand from Bangladesh, as his country would be inundated if the sea level rises by only a metre.

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