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

Dutch Unveil Plan In War Against The Sea: A Sandbar

In its age-old war to keep back the sea, low-lying Netherlands has dumped sand onto a surface larger than 200 football fields just off the coast, and will wait for nature to do the rest…

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TK Bremen Cargo Ship Leaks Fuel Off French Coast

News, Pollution

High winds beached a cargo ship on France’s Atlantic coast and some of the 220 tons of fuel on board leaked out, threatening a local beach.

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Shell Arctic drilling conditionally approved

News, Pollution

A Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary received federal approval Friday for drilling exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast but with conditions that raised concerns with the state’s congressional delegation.

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Chevron faces $10.6bn Brazil legal suit over oil spill

News, Pollution

Brazilian federal prosecutors are seeking 20 billion reais (some $10 billion) for environmental damages from US oil supermajor Chevron and Swiss-based Transocean for an oil spill that began in early November, when wells leaked off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

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How tourism is taking the turtles from Kenya’s blue waters

Tourism has boomed along Kenya’s 500km coastline in the past 30 years. Now a global hotspot for turtle-spotting, Kenya is facing a problem, the tourists are destroying what they come for

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Prime Indonesian Jungle To Be Cleared For Palm Oil

The man known as Indonesia’s “green governor” gave a palm oil company a permit to develop land in one of the few places on earth where orangutans, tigers and bears still can be found living side-by-side, violating Indonesia’s new moratorium on concessions in primary forests and peatlands. That’s why 5,000 villagers living on the edge of a rich, biodiverse peat swamp in this tsunami-ravaged Aceh province feel so betrayed…

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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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Recent / Inform

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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The Silent Evolution: A Coral Reef Sculpture

November 12th, 2010

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor recently completed work on one of the most surreal and awe-inspiring artificial reefs in Cancun/Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in an effort to promote the recovery of nearby natural reefs.

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Nigeria: Continuous Sand Mining and Dredging Cause Concerns


November 12th, 2010

Continued dredging in the state’s shorelines have been described as an illegal activity capable of causing major environmental challenge for Lagos in its bid for environmental sustainability.

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Artificial Offshore Reef Could Stop Serious Beach Erosion

November 11th, 2010

Such costly reef have proved successful in other areas, and it could be the only option to protect the coastline of Old Bar, Australia.

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The view From Beneath The Waves

November 10th, 2010

Rising sea levels are devouring the low-lying lands of the Solomon Islands, with crops failing and lands disappearing. Away from the international conferences and negotiations, climate change and rising sea are a matter of life and death here. The time to act is now.

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Kiribati Conference: Voices From the South Pacific

November 9th, 2010

About 40 officials from around the world flew to the tiny atoll nation of Kiribati, a chain of low-lying South Pacific islands, to attend a conference addressing the impacts of climate change on some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

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Where’s the Gulf oil? In the Coastal Planktonic Food Web, Study Says

November 8th, 2010

The eye-opening speed of how the oil components moved through the ecosystem may affect the overall health of the Gulf and beyond.

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Bangladesh: Finding Sustainable Ways to Cope with Sea Level Rise

November 8th, 2010

As rising sea levels threaten to engulf more land across Bangladesh, NGOs are training thousands of farmers in traditional soil-less farming on water.

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Archaeological Sites and Rising Seas: The Channel Islands’ Region

November 6th, 2010

Coastlines have been magnets of human settlement and contain a rich array of ancient archaeological sites, many of which have never been excavated. The sea has long lashed at the Channel Islands, California, stripping away beaches, slicing off cliff faces and nibbling at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cultural relics.

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