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

“The Shore Break,” A Movie From Riley Grunenwald

A gorgeous stretch of the Wild Coast is the object of a standoff between corrupt pro-mining forces interested in mining the local beach sand for titanium, and a South African coastal community. The drama is structured around two diametrically opposed protagonists. A film review by Variety.

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How much does groundwater contribute to sea level rise?

Groundwater extraction and other land water contribute about three times less to sea level rise than previous estimates, according to a new study. The study does not change the overall picture of future sea level rise, but provides a much more accurate understanding of the interactions between water on land, in the atmosphere, and the oceans.

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Captain Sams Spit, Kiawah Island; By Cecelia Dailey

Since 2008, concerned citizens and environmental organizations have opposed the development of Captain Sams Spit, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

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The Archipelago with Ubiquitous Land Reclamation Projects

Whilst reclamation in Jakarta and Bali are more well-known due to the frequent reporting and public controversies, similar projects are also either being planned or underway in other regions across Indonesia.

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Half of all farmed fish have hearing loss due to deformed ears bones

New research suggests the way we raise fish in farms and hatcheries could be causing harmful changes to their bodies.

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Canadian waters getting safer, but research gaps limit full understanding of shipping risks

The risks of commercial marine shipping accidents across Canada’s regions have been outlined in a new report, including information for different cargo types. The report highlights gaps in understanding and areas for further research.

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French mayor draws a line in the beach sand

News, Sand Mining

The growing global sand and gravel exploitation has not spared France’s beaches either. Under what has been called the “Le Matelier project,” two companies are considering extracting about 13-million cubic metres of beach sand and gravel for 30 years, in the Gironde estuary.

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Students Reviving Mangrove Wetlands, Bahamas

Students participated in a pilot programme called the Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves (BAM), a project about mangrove education and restoration.

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Japanese Monks Recorded the Climate for 700 Years

Some of the oldest continuous historical records from around the world show us how dramatically the climate has changed.

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Recent / Inform

A Peruvian Beach Named Dirtiest in the World

March 5th, 2016

When people think of beaches, they may think fine sand and pristine shores. However, that won’t be the scene to catch in Peru’s Carpayo beach, located on the western tip of the capital. Carpayo is on the receiving end of waste and dumps from Lima and it gets about 2.8 kilos of trash per square meter. In the latest clean-up drive, 60 tons of trash were collected in three hours.

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Thousands to march against coal plant threat to mangrove

March 5th, 2016

Thousands of Bangladeshis will march from Dhaka to the world’s biggest mangrove forest next week in protest at plans to build two coal-power plants on the edge of the World Heritage-listed forest.

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Alabama has been destroying its natural coast

March 5th, 2016

From its beginning Alabama has been endowed with some of the finest natural white sand beach and dune systems in the nation, but, over time, we have preserved less, and destroyed more of this asset than any other state. We have literally “paved paradise and put up a parking lot!

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Fish Poachers Push Endangered Porpoises to Brink

March 5th, 2016

China’s lucrative black market for fish parts is threatening the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The porpoises, who live only in the Gulf of California, are getting caught up as bycatch in illegal gill nets and killed. Scientists fear the porpoise could vanish by 2018.

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Hawaii bill to restore Waikiki Beach

March 3rd, 2016

Despite being one of Hawaii’s most iconic beaches, many visitors don’t know Waikiki Beach is actually an engineered beach that has been filled with imported sand. Waikiki has been facing erosion problems for years, and Hawaii lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore it…again. The state estimates that approximately 300,000 cubic yards of sand have been imported to Waikiki beaches over the past 75 years, often mined from other beaches in the state.

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Rethinking Urban Landscapes To Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

March 3rd, 2016

From Shanghai and Mumbai to New York and Buenos Aires, even a few feet of sea level rise threatens to flood homes and highways, inundate sewage treatment plants, and contaminate drinking water. Landscape architect Kristina Hill argues that cities need to start planning now for impacts that will happen 50 or 100 years in the future.

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Why Sustainability Is No Longer a Choice (Op-Ed)

March 3rd, 2016

Our understanding of the global climate, economic system and world has changed dramatically over the past decade. And with it, the roles and responsibilities of businesses have also changed.

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California Coastal Current

February 29th, 2016

The waters along the west coast of North America are some of the most biologically productive in the world. Cool water from high latitudes flows southward from the edge of British Columbia to Baja; this is the California Current.

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Long-term solution sought to problem of Ocean Beach erosion

February 29th, 2016

Every few years, caravans of yellow trucks move thousands of tons of sand from the north end of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to eroded areas at the south end. And almost immediately, the silvery tide begins carrying it back to where it came from.

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Mona Island

February 28th, 2016

75 kilometers to the west of Puerto Rico, a lesser-known island of the Puerto Rican archipelago rises from the Caribbean. Mona island’s primary inhabitants are the plants and animals, the diversity of which has led Mona to be nicknamed the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.”

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