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

Protect S.C. coast: No retreat from ‘line in the sand’

South Carolina faces an historic opportunity this legislative session, with a vote on the floor likely in the coming weeks. The time could not come soon enough, as our coastal communities face record-breaking storm surges, sea level rise, and flooding events.

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Is there enough sand to go around?

The sand we spread our towels on in visits to the Delaware beach towns was once at the bottom of the sea, before engineers pumped it onto the shoreline in a wave of beach replenishment projects.

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Seeing the Reef for the Corals

The rainforests of the sea, are one of the most prized ecosystems in the ocean. Coral reefs are home to about a quarter of all ocean fish species, making them hot spots of biodiversity. They protect shorelines from storms, provide food for millions of people, and provide economic benefits by encouraging tourism. Despite their value, few of the world’s reefs have been studied.

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Federal government agrees to stop approving oil fracking off the California coast until environment review

News, Pollution

The federal government has agreed to stop approving oil fracking off the California coast until it studies whether the practice is safe for the environment, according to legal settlements filed Friday.

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Study Finds Toxic Pollutants in Fish Across the World’s Oceans

News, Pollution

A new global analysis of seafood found that fish populations throughout the world’s oceans are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, collectively known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The study also uncovered some good news¾concentrations of these pollutants have been consistently dropping over the last 30 years.

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Survey shows Aussies’ love and concern for Great Barrier Reef


A James Cook University researcher has found more than three quarters of Australians regard the Great Barrier Reef as part of their national identity and nearly 90 per cent believe it is under threat from climate change.

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Red mud pollution: outrage in Marseille

Thousands of people marched in Marseille’s street today to protest against “the red mud scandal”, where Altéo industry, specialized in the industrial production of aluminum, has been granted the right to continue rejecting its hazardous waste product into the marine environment of the Calanques National Park.

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Florida beaches are becoming darker, and that’s good for sea turtles

Newly published research confirms that the density of sea turtle nests on Florida beaches is reduced where artificial lights along the coast deter nesting females. The data also show that the network of sea turtle-friendly lighting ordinances along Florida’s coast seems to be working.

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Shifting Sands, Shifted Rights: The Beach as Contested Space

Determining rights to Florida’s sandy beaches has presented a thorny set of issues. But for many years, the public and private interests have co-existed. Now, along with population growth, sea level rise and relentless erosion have become an uncomfortable reality. The infinite variety of scenarios that sea level rise is presenting and will present along the coast will challenge our legal system in many ways.

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Recent / Inform

White sand, black gold: when oil derricks loomed over California beaches

December 8th, 2015

As California population boomed in the decades following the gold rush of 1849, there was a rapidly growing demand for petroleum. By 1920, California was producing 77 million barrels of oil a year, and vast stretches of the state were occupied by derricks, and refineries. In coastal places such as Venice, oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.

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Stealing Turtle Eggs Got People Shot, But The Thievery Continues

December 8th, 2015

Olive ridley sea turtles are a threatened species, and the Mexican government has made it illegal to harvest their eggs from Pacific beaches. Mexican marines patrol those beaches, and violators have been prosecuted. Yet sea turtle eggs continue to be harvested, sold in the market.

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Bangladesh’s Kutubdia island losing battle to stem climate tide


December 7th, 2015

Although around 100,000 people still reside on Kutubdia, few have any illusions they are living on borrowed time, with Coast – a Bangladeshi NGO – warning the whole island could disappear underwater within 50 years. Tens of thousands have already left for good, mainly heading to the teeming capital Dhaka.

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Column: The future of Florida’s beaches and the public’s right to know; Op Ed. by Orrin Pilkey

December 7th, 2015

“The state of Florida has a very weak coastal management program and has carried out no realistic planning about how to respond to sea-level rise. In fact, leading politicians of the state, including the governor, deny global climate change and have forbidden their lieutenants from even mentioning the seven words “climate change, global warming, sea level rise…”

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Records Fall in 2015 Cyclone Season

December 5th, 2015

The 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic, eastern Pacific, and central Pacific basins ended on November 30, according to the meteorological calendar. It was a year that brought many storms that defied usual expectations and destroyed parts of the record books.

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Higher Levels of Fukushima Cesium Detected Offshore

December 5th, 2015

Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco.

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Ciguatera fish poisoning predicted to increase with rising ocean temperatures

December 3rd, 2015

A new NOAA study forecasts an increase in ciguatera fish poisoning in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Southeast Atlantic coast with predicted rising global ocean temperatures due to climate change.

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Chennai floods are not a natural disaster, Tamil Nadu, India

December 3rd, 2015

As a city on the high-energy coast facing the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is no stranger to heavy rains and cyclonic storms. But with every invitation to “Make in Chennai”, the city is unmaking itself and eroding its resilience to perfectly normal monsoon weather events. The infrastructure of big commerce has replaced the infrastructure to withstand natural shocks.

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Sea grass a potential solution in climate fight

December 3rd, 2015

While mangrove and salt bushes can play key roles in protecting fragile coastlines from wave damage and promote biodiversity, it’s the humble sea grass that provides the largest potential to store more carbon from the atmosphere.

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Even the tiniest plastics found in the sea with new technology

December 3rd, 2015

Studies have estimated that each year between 4 and 12 million tonnes of plastics end up in the sea, and that the figure is expected to double over the next ten years. But we have only begun to learn what happens with the plastics afterwards. Scientists have now developed a method that can measure the microplastics that other methods overlook.

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