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

Oil Spill In Vancouver Would Coat Beaches Within Hours: Analysis

News, Pollution

An analysis of the impact on Vancouver’s inlets and beaches in the event of a major oil spill contends the shoreline would be coated in crude within hours.

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Decade-Old Gulf Oil Spill Could Last 100 Years

News, Pollution

A decade-old oil leak where an offshore platform toppled during a hurricane could continue spilling crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a century or more if left unchecked, according to government estimates obtained by The Associated Press that provide new details about the scope of the problem.

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Lego Ends Shell Partnership Following Greenpeace Campaign

Inform, Pollution

Lego -the world’s biggest toy maker – said the company will not renew its marketing contract with Shell after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace to end a partnership that dates to the 1960s.

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Seattle Becomes Shell’s Arctic Base


The arrival in Seattle Thursday of an oil rig Royal Dutch Shell is outfitting for oil exploration in the remote Arctic Ocean marks a pivotal moment for an environmental movement increasingly mobilized around climate change.

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Editorial: Beach Replenishment is No Cure-All


What do you do if a beach replenishment project is not working the way it was intended? That is the question facing Sea Bright, NJ, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers these days.

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Further Assessment Needed of Dispersants Used in Response to Oil Spills


Experts argue for further in-depth assessments of the impacts of dispersants on microorganisms to guide their use in response to future oil spills. Chemical dispersants are widely used in emergency responses to oil spills in marine environments as a means of stimulating microbial degradation of oil.

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U.S. Gives Conditional OK To Shell Oil For Drilling Off Alaska’s Arctic Shore

News, Pollution

The Obama administration has given conditional approval to Shell Oil’s plan to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean this summer. The company wants to resume drilling in the Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska; it broke off that effort in 2012 because of safety problems.

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Government, Hotels Pressure Local Officials Over Sand Mining

News, Sand Mining

The government, hoteliers and civil society are stepping up the pressure on Thandwe authorities to curb rampant sand mining at Myanmar’s premier beach destination, Ngapali.

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Study Reveals How Rivers Regulate Global Carbon Cycle


Nature has its own methods for the removal and long-term storage of carbon, including the world’s river systems, which transport decaying organic material and eroded rock from land to the ocean.

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Recent / Inform

Why Dangerous Sinkholes Keep Appearing Along the Dead Sea


April 8th, 2015

For millennia, the salty, mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea have drawn visitors and health pilgrims to its shores. But in recent years, gaping chasms have been opening up without warning along its banks, posing a threat to such visitors and tourism in general.

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What the Earth Would Look Like if all the Ice Melted, Video


April 8th, 2015

As National Geographic showed us in 2013, sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world’s major cities.

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Northern Coastal Marshes More Vulnerable to Nutrient Pollution


April 7th, 2015

Salt marshes at higher latitudes, such as those in densely populated coastal regions of New England and northern Europe, are more vulnerable to the effects of nutrient pollution, a new Duke University study finds.

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Communicating a Hurricane’s Real Risks


April 7th, 2015

A surprising and little known fact: More than half of those who die during hurricanes perish from drowning. For the first time this year, scientists began communicating warnings that included storm surge.

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Trace Amounts of Fukushima Radioactivity Detected Along Shoreline of British Columbia


April 7th, 2015

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have for the first time detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in a seawater sample from the shoreline of North America.

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New Interactive Storm-Surge Map Helps Residents See Potential Flood Risks


April 7th, 2015

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is testing a new feature that lets people get a look at what kind of damage and storm surges are possible, and using nearby Charleston for the preliminary model.

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Beautiful Vacation Destinations Overtaken By Trash

Bali Trash

April 6th, 2015

By 2025, the amount of waste we produce as a planet is set to exceed 2.2 billion metric tons a year, and by 2100 we will be churning out more than 11 million tons a day. As a result many of our world’s most beautiful and historic destinations are being buried under mountains of trash. Here are some of the worst.

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Oil Dispersant Used in Gulf Oil Spill Causes Lung and Gill Injuries to Humans and Aquatic Animals


April 6th, 2015

New research suggests that Corexit EC9500A, an oil-dispersal agent widely used in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, contributes to damage to epithelium cells within the lungs of humans and gills of marine creatures.

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Photographer Ray Collins Sees Waves The Way You’ve NEVER Seen Them


April 5th, 2015

Leave it to a colorblind coal miner to turn waves into works of art. Australian photographer Ray Collins has become known for capturing the swells in otherworldly perspective.

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A Silent Victory For Marine Mammals


April 3rd, 2015

A federal judge stands up to the noisy navy for the sake of marine mammals.

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