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

Chilika Lake and Nalabana Bird Sanctuary


Chilika Lake is the largest lagoon in India and one of the largest in the world.

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Illegal Sand Miners Back In Business

News, Sand Mining

Taking advantage of government officials caught up with election work, the sand mafia has become active with transportation of sand from the Yamuna and Hindon river banks going on unimpeded…

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More Male Fish Feminized By Pollution On Basque Coast, A Study


Evidence of feminization of male fish in the estuaries of Gernika, Arriluze, Santurtzi, Plentzia, Ondarroa, Deba and Pasaia has been discovered. Pollutants acting as estrogens are responsible for this phenomenon.

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Ancient Clam Gardens Nurture Food Security


A three-year study of ancient clam gardens in the Pacific Northwest has led researchers to make a discovery that could benefit coastal communities’ food production.

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Rising Seas And Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land


As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes…

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Community Conservation Efforts Credited For Increasing Olive Ridley Turtles Nesting, India


India’s eastern coastal state of Odisha each year hosts nearly half of the world’s and 90 percent of India’s nesting Olive Ridley turtles, categorised as “endangered.” The only other major mass nesting beaches in the world are in Pacific Mexico and Costa Rica.

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Spain’s Oil Deposits And Fracking Sites Trigger Energy Gold Rush

News, Pollution

Major offshore oil discoveries and prospects for shale gas extraction are generating excitement and resistance.

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A Honduran Paradise that Doesn’t Want to Anger the Sea Again


At the mouth of the Aguán river on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, a Garífuna community living in a natural paradise that was devastated 15 years ago by Hurricane Mitch has set an example of adaptation to climate change.

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Earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis: the world’s 10 riskiest cities


What are the world’s riskiest cities when it comes to natural disasters?

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Recent / Inform

Kenya Turns Flip-Flops Into Art – In Pictures


January 30th, 2014

Discarded plastic shoes litter beaches across the world, but environmental project is transforming them into animal ornaments and jewellery

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Nile Delta Disappearing Beneath the Sea


January 29th, 2014

In a report released last September, the IPCC predicts a sea level rise of 28 to 98 centimetres by 2100. Even by the most conservative estimate, this would destroy 12.5 percent of Egypt’s cultivated areas and displace about eight million people, or nearly 10 percent of the population. But it is not just rising sea levels that threaten Egypt’s northern coast, the delta itself is sinking.

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Living Cold-Water Coral Reef Discovered Off Greenland


January 29th, 2014

By sheer coincidence, Canadian researchers have discovered a reef of living cold-water corals in southern Greenland. There are several species of coral in Greenland, but this is the first time that an actual reef has been found.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Call For Changes After Molasses Spill


January 29th, 2014

Hawaii lawmakers are responding to last year’s molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor by suggesting any fines or settlements the state collects for ocean spills be put toward restoring coral reefs.

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Officials Says Duncans Bay Sand-Mining Operation Legal


January 27th, 2014

Land developer and former member of parliament for North Trelawny Keith Russell has defended his sand-mining operation in the upscale Duncan’s Bay Beach area of the parish, while locals remain concerned that the removal of sand from the area could result in the erosion of the beach.

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Six Decades of a Warming Earth, NASA Video


January 25th, 2014

This visualization shows how global temperatures have risen from 1950 through the end of 2013.

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Rainforests in Far East shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years


January 25th, 2014

New research shows that the tropical forests of South East Asia have been shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years. The rain forests of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Thailand and Vietnam were previously thought to have been largely unaffected by humans, but the latest research suggests otherwise.

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Threaten By Rising Sea, A 5 story Building Is Evacuated


January 25th, 2014

The owners of a five story building built on a coastal dune in the french southwestern town of Soulac-sur-Mer, have been ordered to evacuate. Built 40 years ago, 200 meters away from the shoreline, the building now stands only 20 meters away from the ocean.

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Erosion Happens: Can We Deal With It?


January 24th, 2014

Coastal communities are increasingly experiencing the impacts of an encroaching ocean. Storm waves are eroding beaches and flooding developed areas. Rising sea levels are taking land. The ocean’s power even when it’s seemingly tranquil is unmatched, but when it’s angry our continued disrespect proves costly…

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Climate-Induced Migration Creates Perils, Possibilities


January 22nd, 2014

For Pacific islands like Tuvalu and Kiribati, the implications of climate change are clear, and devastating. Already, these governments have begun to plan for a future in which entire populations have to relocate as their islands vanish under the rising sea. But climate change also threatens ways of life in subtler ways, leaving families around the world to work out for themselves how to cope.

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