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

Geographic Analysis Offers New Insight Into Coral Disease Spread

In the last 30 years, more than 90 percent of the reef-building coral responsible for maintaining major marine habitats and providing a natural barrier against hurricanes in the Caribbean has disappeared because of a disease of unknown origin.

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Sea Turtle Egg Poaching Legalized in Costa Rica: The Debate

An unusual project installed in 1990, to stabilize the population of Olive Ridley sea turtles in the coastal town of Ostional on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, that led the government of Costa Rica to legally permit an exemption to the 1966 nationwide ban on harvesting sea turtle eggs, remains controversial.


The Plastic Bag Wars

News, Pollution

The world consumes 1 million plastic shopping bags every minute, and the industry is fighting hard to keep it that way…

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Cambodia: A Stop Order To Excessive Sand Dredging

News, Sand Mining

The “King of Koh Kong” has been ordered to stop his company’s massive sand dredging operation on the Tatai river amid concerns it is decimating the environment and ruining the tourist trade.

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UN climate change conference and the world security

The UN Security Council expressed concern that the possible adverse effects of climate change could aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security and that the loss of territory in some States due to sea-level rise, particularly in small low-lying island States, could have possible security implications.

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Caribbean states want end of nuclear waste shipments

The practice of shipping hazardous and nuclear waste through the Caribbean sea is seen as a dangerous environmental gamble, risking the existence of the more than 20 million people, and threatening its coral reefs and ecosystems.

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The Rising Sea

On Shishmaref Island in Alaska, homes are being washed into the sea. In the South Pacific, small island nations face annihilation by encroaching waters. In coastal Louisiana, an area the size of a football field disappears every day. For these communities, sea level rise isn’t a distant, abstract fear: it’s happening now and it’s threatening their way of life… A book by Orrin H. Pilkey and Rob Young, published by Island Press.

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Reaching The Gap Between Scientists And Policy Makers

Dr. Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer, joined a team of scientists and government officials, on a week-long expedition “the Mission Blue expedition” to the Swan Islands and Mesoamerican Reef to raise global awareness of the critical importance of the Mesoamerican Reef and surrounding areas.

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Rising Oceans: Too Late to Turn the Tide?

Unless we dramatically curb global warming, we are in for centuries of sea level rise at a rate of up to three feet per century. Much of the world’s population lives relatively close to sea level, thus this is going to have huge impacts, especially on poor countries.

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Recent / Inform

The Double Disaster

The Double Disaster

November 29th, 2009

The Impacts of illicit River Sand Mining & Climate Change in Sri Lanka

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Plastic Pollution

November 11th, 2009

The world population is living, working, vacationing, increasingly conglomerating along the coasts, and standing on the front row of the greatest, most unprecedented, plastic waste tide ever faced. Washed out on our coasts in obvious and clearly visible form, the plastic pollution spectacle blatantly unveiling on our beaches is only the prelude of the greater story that unfolded further away in the world’s oceans, yet mostly originating from where we stand: the land.

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Kashima Beach, Japan; By Andrew Cooper

Kahima Beach, Japan

November 1st, 2009

Kashima, 80 km east of Tokyo, is one of Japan’s most important ports.

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Ocean Pollution and Ocean Polluters

Sea Garbarge Disposal

October 22nd, 2009

Did you know that it’s legal to dump trash in the ocean? Yes, there are limitations for what you can and cannot dump.

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Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, France; By Sharlene Pilkey

Saint-Michel-en-Greve, Brittany, France

October 1st, 2009

With beaches and coastlines all over the world already under attack from sea level rise, pollution, mining, driving, seawall construction and human development encroachment, another menace is mounting an assault.

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Preserving the health of the Rio de la Plata

September 25th, 2009

Research may lead to policies and regulations on side mining in Uruguay.

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Documenting The Global Impacts Of Beach Sand Mining

June 20th, 2009

For centuries, beach sand has been mined for use as aggregate in concrete, for heavy minerals, and for construction fill.

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Oil spills on the worlds beaches and in the worlds oceans

May 24th, 2009

Beaches and river shorelines all over the world are at risk from oil spills.

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Benin: Erosion-inducing coastal sand mining to be outlawed

April 30th, 2009

Faced with rising sea levels and coastal erosion caused in part by coastal sand mining, carting away of free beach sand for commercial uses, the national government has begun a campaign to save its coastal sand by digging up sand inland, instead. But communities near these newly-created sand collection spots are fighting back.

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European Bad Beach Management

Bad Beach Management

April 25th, 2009

A slide show of European Bad Beach Management by Andrew Cooper.

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