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

Alarming Illegal Gold mining Threatens Ghana’s Forests and Bodies of Water


Ghanaian authorities have arrested 168 Chinese citizens for illegal goldmining, highlighting the social and environmental challenges posed by China’s growing presence on the continent. The rate of destruction is such that, if it is not stopped, Ghana will not have any forest left…

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Sand Dredging Law Stalled, Bahrain


A new law regulating the dredging of sand from the seabed stalled yesterday. Under the draft law, dredgers would have to compensate any damages to the environment or facilities in the sea, with those exceeding permitted amounts would have the extra sand seized by the government.

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NOAA proposal extends rule reducing risk of whale ship strikes along U.S. East Coast


The North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered species in the world, and are highly vulnerable to ship collisions. The whale primarily occurs in coastal or shelf waters. Its known range includes winter calving and nursery areas in coastal waters off the southeastern United States.

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Art Confronts Maldives’ Climate Change Controversy


The Maldives’ first national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the world famous art show that attracts art aficionados to this Italian lagoon city every two years, is all about climate change and the threat posed by rising sea levels to this low-lying chain of islands in the Indian Ocean.

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Human Deforestation Outweighs Climate Change for Coral Reefs


Better land use is the key to preventing further damage to the world’s coral reefs, according to a study published this week in the online science journal Nature Communications

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Shored Up, A Film By Ben Kalina


Shored Up : When Nature and The Force Of Nature Collide. A Film by Ben Kalina. See Listing: Upcoming screenings.

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Giant Garbage Patches of the Sea Become ‘National’ Art in Venice

News, Pollution

Five huge patches of rubbish floating in seas around the world will have their own unofficial national pavilion on the sidelines of the world’s largest non-commercial art fair in Venice this week, thanks to artist Maria Cristina Finucci.

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Tarut Bay, Saudi Arabia


Tarut Bay is located along the coastline of the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf). The bay surrounds one of the largest islands in the Arabian Gulf—Tarut—which has an area of approximately 70 square kilometers (27 square miles).

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Think Beyond Plastic

News, Pollution

Think Beyond Plastic, is a competition and a conference, initiated by The Plastic Pollution Coalition, featuring entrepreneurs and solutions that measurably reduce plastic pollution. This competition and conference will take place on June 13, 2013 in Berkeley, CA and is open to the public.

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Recent / Inform

Puerto Rico Leatherback Turtle Nesting Site, Receives Protection


April 15th, 2013

Puerto Rico’s governor has signed a law to protect a swath of land along the island’s northeast coast that is a top U.S. nesting site for the world’s largest turtle species.

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New Sea-Level-Rise Modeling Forecasts Major Climate Impact to Low-Lying Pacific Islands


April 15th, 2013

Dynamic modeling of sea-level rise, which takes storm wind and wave action into account, paints a much graver picture for some low-lying Pacific islands under climate-change scenarios than the passive computer modeling used in earlier research, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.

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Vietnam’s Mangroves, A Video


April 13th, 2013

This film highlights the threat to Vietnam’s coastal mangrove forests.

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Mangroves, Domes, and Flats on the UAE Coast


April 13th, 2013

A mention of the United Arab Emirates coast might bring to mind the artificial islands near the city of Dubai. But to the southwest, the UAE coast is dotted with a complex mixture of natural features: mangroves, salt domes, salt flats, and coral reefs.

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Better Urban Planning Needed To Dodge Disasters


April 13th, 2013

With the world’s mega-cities growing even larger, policymakers, especially those in developing countries, need urban planning that will help these areas withstand the impacts of natural disasters.

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Waterworld: Cities of the future?


April 12th, 2013

For years, scientists have warned about the danger of rising sea levels, and thanks to an artist’s projections, we can see now what the impacts might look like in real life.

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Australia To Face Japan Over Whaling In UN Court


April 12th, 2013

The UN’s International Court of Justice has set dates for public hearings on Australia’s challenge against Japan’s whaling programme in Antarctica.

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Letting Nature Take Its Course?


April 12th, 2013

Is sustainability still possible? Yes. Is it still probable? No. With bold action today, tomorrow, and in years to come, we could succeed in creating a sustainable and prosperous society. But what does bold action actually mean? An Op Ed by Erik Assadourian, IPS.

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Arctic Nearly Free Of Summer Sea Ice During First Half Of 21st Century


April 12th, 2013

For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it’s not a question of “if” there will be nearly ice-free summers, but “when.” And two scientists say that “when” is sooner than many thought, before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

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Nevis Government Says It Will No Longer Tolerate iIlegal Sand Mining


April 11th, 2013

Illegal sand miners across the island of Nevis have been warned to stop their illegal activities or face equipment seizure, arrest and prosecution.

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