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

Fraser Island tourism is proof Straddie will survive sand mining exit

Former Australian’s prime minister Malcolm Fraser, began the process of ending sand mining on Fraser Island in 1976, which finally succeeded in 1996 when the island was listed as a World Heritage site.

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Nansen Breaking Up with Antarctica

A floating shelf of ice attached to the coast of Antarctica appears ready to shed an iceberg into the Southern Ocean. Over the course of two years, a small crack grew large enough to spread across nearly the entire width of the Nansen Ice Shelf.

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The sea-nomad children who see like dolphins


Deep in the island archipelagos on the Andaman Sea, and along the west coast of Thailand live small tribes called the Moken people, also known as sea-nomads. Their children spend much of their day in the sea, diving for food. Unlike most people, the children see with total clarity beneath the waves – how do they do it, and might their talent be learned?

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Fukushima Site Still Leaking After Five Years, Research Shows

Five years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, study shows levels of radioactive forms of cesium in the ocean off Japan are thousands of times lower than during the peak releases in 2011, however, analysis of cesium and strontium indicate releases from the plant are not yet “under control,” a statement that has been used by the Japanese government to describe the situation when levels are below regulatory limits.

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Turning Oil Rigs Into Reefs; A Video

Environmentalists disagree over whether outdated oil rigs off the coast of Long Beach, Calif., can become an addition to the marine ecosystem.

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UCSB Researchers Studying El Niño Sea Level Rise, CA

Since the arrival of El Niño in November, sea levels have risen 20 cm to become a surrogate for the next 250 years of climate change, giving scientists the prime opportunity to study future erosion of the Santa Barbara coastline.

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Company accused of willfully destroying Kenya’s best beach

The nightmare of sandless Diani beaches is looming large again after Chinese company, the China Roads and Bridge Corporation, decided to appeal a decision by the Kenyan environmental tribunal that no more dredging was permitted off Diani beach without a full environmental and social impact assessment study.

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Cheap oil is taking routes back to the 1800s.

The plummeting price of oil on international markets has had many effects – one of which is that it may be cheaper for ships to travel right around Africa than go through the Suez Canal.

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Organic shrimp farmers protect mangrove forests

After three years of implementation of the Mangroves and Markets Project (MAM), shrimp farmers have become more aware of organic production techniques and the need to preserve mangrove forests in their areas.

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Recent / Inform

Negril Chamber Outraged Over Sand-Mining Operations, Jamaica

January 16th, 2016

The Negril Chamber of Commerce has expressed outrage at what it says appears to be shady sand mining activities connected to major hotel developments in Negril and elsewhere on the North Coast.

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Fairhope continues to fight beach erosion, AL

January 15th, 2016

After a major beach replenishment effort in 2014, the city of Fairhope continues to fight erosion problems. The beach near the Pier Street boat ramp is losing about 10 percent of its sand each year. For the second year in a row, tons of sand have been lost at the public beach south of Pier Street. It’s an ongoing battle with Mother Nature.

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NOAA-led research identifies areas of global ocean most vulnerable to ocean acidification

January 15th, 2016

Ocean acidification is caused by humankind’s release of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. Excess carbon dioxide enters the ocean, reacts with water, decreases ocean pH and lowers carbonate ion concentrations, making waters more corrosive to marine species

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Cemex mine reflects human hunger for sand, California

January 14th, 2016

The disappearance of the beach reflects an alarming reality: Southern Monterey Bay, Marina in particular, has the highest coastal erosion rate in the state of California. For more than 20 years, scientists have speculated about the sand mine’s contribution to that erosion rate, and a 2008 study concluded it was the primary cause. The Cemex mine in Marina is the only remaining coastal sand mine in the entire United States. Which leads to new questions.

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PCB chemical threat to Europe’s killer whales and dolphins

January 14th, 2016

A pollutant is present at “dangerously high levels” in Europe’s killer whales and dolphins, scientists say.

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Ocean current in Gulf of Mexico linked to red tide, study

January 14th, 2016

A major ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico plays an important role in sustaining Florida red tide blooms, a new study indicates. Researchers suggest that the position of the Loop Current can serve as an indicator of whether the algal bloom will be sustained, and provide warning of possible hazardous red tide conditions in coastal areas.

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The Great Barrier Reef Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

January 13th, 2016

Sir David Attenborough uses new technologies to create an interactive journey, highlighting the perils of climate change.

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Over 80 Whales Wash Ashore on Indian Coast

January 12th, 2016

More than 80 whales have washed up on a beach in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

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Beach erosion making St Clair too dangerous, New Zealand

January 10th, 2016

Dunedin surfers and lifeguards are calling for urgent council action to save St Clair beach. The call comes as the city prepares to host the National Surf Championships next week. Beach erosion has been a problem at St Clair for more than a century, as waves hitting the sea wall bounce off with more energy than those washing back from a regular beach.

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Spread of algal toxin through marine food web broke records in 2015

January 10th, 2016

While Dungeness crab captured headlines, record levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid were found in a range of species, and the toxin showed up in new places.

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