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

Environmental Impacts of Algae-Derived Biodiesel

News, Pollution

Algae-based fuel is one of many options among the array of possible future energy sources.

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Dead Zone Off Gulf Coast, As Large As The State Of New Jersey

Dead zones off the coast, are fueled by nutrient runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the Mississippi River watershed, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in bottom waters. These chronic, recurring hypoxic zones every summer represent a significant threat to Gulf coastal ecosystems.

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Ghana’s Ongoing Battle Against Coastal erosion

According to estimates, the ocean claims 1.5 to 2 metres of the 539- kilometres Ghana coastline annually; with the most risky coastal areas, Ada Foah and the Eastern parts of Keta, recording 4 metres. Ghana’s Government decided on a costly and controversial project: the building of a 68 million euros, 30 kms “Ada Defense Sea Wall” to “salvage the people in the area from the ravages of the sea…”

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Oil slick spreads from sunken ship off Mumbai

News, Pollution

Indian authorities worked to clean up an oil spill from a cargo ship that sank off Mumbai last week, with oil found on beaches and in water near the city’s shoreline.

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What was natural in the coastal oceans?

Humans transformed Western Atlantic coastal marine ecosystems before modern ecological investigations began. The universal pattern of losses demonstrates that no coastal ecosystem is pristine and few wild fisheries are sustainable along the entire Western Atlantic coast.

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Wild Boar Deaths linked to Green Algae: Confirmed

News, Pollution

First tests on wild boars washed up on Brittany’s beaches, showed that all but one, had hydrogen sulphide gas (emitted by rotting green algae) in their lungs. Test results on the remaining boars haven’t been released yet.

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US opens ways for Shell drilling in Arctic Ocean

News, Pollution

The US Interior Department has opened the doors to Shell’s proposal for four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea to start in July 2012.

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Green Algae Chokes Eastern China’s Beaches

News, Pollution

In Qingdoo, Shandong Eastern Province of China, the coastal waters are covered with algae called enteromorpha prolifera. Though this green algae is not poisonous per se, it consumes large amounts of oxygen that can threaten marine life.

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Oil pollution in Niger Delta: Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland Report; Unep

News, Pollution

A report by the UN Environment Programme, which carried out a 14-month assessment of pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in Ogoniland – Niger Delta region, has found widespread and devastating oil pollution that may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up, that could take 20-30 years. The UNEP also called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion to a clean-up fund for the region to properly address this “tragic legacy.”

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Recent / Inform

Ancestors’ Bones Halt Sand Mining

May 20th, 2010

Greg McDonald says remains of his Ngati Wai ancestors from centuries ago lie on the Pakiri Beach seabed.

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Singapore sand imports threaten Cambodian ecosystem

May 11th, 2010

Singapore, which prides itself on being one of the most environmentally friendly nations in Asia, is expanding its coastline with irresponsibly dredged sand from Cambodia, according to a report from an environmental NGO.

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Mining ‘eating’ dunes at Northland refuge

May 7th, 2010

Erosion of dunes at a remote Northland beach and wildlife refuge is being blamed on dredges mining the near shore.

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Greenbelt Reports / TVE Asia Pacific

May 5th, 2010

The Greenbelt Reports (GBR) is a multi-media, Asian regional educational project to document the conservation challenges involving mangroves, coral reefs and sand reefs – collectively called ‘greenbelts’ in recognition of their natural protective role against wave action and anticipated climate change impact.

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Microbial Answer to Plastic Pollution?

April 29th, 2010

Fragments of plastic in the ocean are not just unsightly but potentially lethal to marine life. Coastal microbes may offer a smart solution to clean up plastic contamination.

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Singapore accused of launching Sand Wars

April 26th, 2010

By paying smugglers to steal under the cover of night, entire picturesque sandy beaches of Indonesia and Malaysia, carving out millions of tons of coastline.

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Last-Chance Beaches: Morocco

April 25th, 2010

You’d think that a desert country like Morocco would have enough sand for everyone. But at least a few parties feel the need to steal sand from Morocco’s Atlantic beaches, by literally bulldozing dunes, trucking the sand away to make cement, and leaving behind ugly lunar landscapes.

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Take Action to End Global Beach Sand Mining!

SOS Save Our Sand

April 24th, 2010

We urge you to become part of the movement by signing the petition to end beach sand mining.

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La Faute-sur-Mer and l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer beaches, Vendée, France; By Claire Le Guern


April 1st, 2010

The main attractions of the coastal towns besides the beaches are the Nature Reserve, and the off shore mussel farms. Not anymore.

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Disputed isle in Bay of Bengal

disappearing island

March 24th, 2010

For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal.

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