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

Expanding Focus, Boundaries of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary


NOAA has announced its proposed rule for expanding the size and the focus of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to include multiple marine species. Members of the public are invited to submit comments to the agency on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement now through June 19.

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In the Aftermath of Cyclone Pam


When category 5 cyclone Pam swept over the island nation of Vanuatu in March 2015, two of the hardest hit islands were Tanna and Erromango.

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Big Shelves Of Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought


The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways — research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

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The Deadly Global War for Sand


Apart from water and air, humble sand is the natural resource most consumed by human beings. People use more than 40 billion tons of sand and gravel every year. There’s so much demand that riverbeds and beaches around the world are being stripped bare.

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Saltwater Intrusion: The Parts You Can’t See


As saltwater moves increasingly farther into coastal plain, there will be changes to the landscape that we can see, like dead-standing trees, and many that we cannot. The quality of the water, the nutrients in the soil and the exchange of greenhouse gasses will all be affected.

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Pollution a Key but Underrated Factor in New Development Goals

News, Pollution

Pollution is likely to be the most pressing global health issue in the coming years without effective prevention and clean-up efforts, experts say.

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What Causes Cetaceans to Strand Along the Coast?


There are many reason why marine mammals beach themselves, and the Marine Mammal Center recommends these steps if you come across a beached seal, whale or dolphin.

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Use of Satellite Imagery to Weed Out Illegal Sand Miners

News, Sand Mining

Government will be adopting the satellite route to weed out illegal sand miners throughout India using the technology available with India’s space agency ISRO.

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Doubling of Coastal Erosion by Mid-Century in Hawai’i


Chronic erosion dominates the sandy beaches of Hawai’i, causing beach loss as it damages homes, infrastructure, and critical habitat. Researchers have long understood that global sea level rise will affect the rate of coastal erosion. However, new research indicates that coastal erosion of Hawai’i’s beaches may double by mid-century.

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Recent / Inform

Great Barrier Reef: Warmer Waters Helping Coral-Eating Starfish Thrive


February 15th, 2015

The survival chances of crown-of-thorns starfish increase by as much as 240% if sea-surface temperatures rise 2C, say Australian researchers.

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Louisiana Coastal Erosion Lawsuit Against Oil Companies Dismissed By U.S. District Judge


February 15th, 2015

A lawsuit filed in 2013 by a Louisiana flood board that sought damages — potentially in the billions of dollars — from scores of oil, gas and pipeline companies over erosion of the state’s fragile coast was thrown out Friday evening by a federal judge.

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Ocean Plastic is Likely Disappearing Into the Food Chain, New Study Indicates


February 13th, 2015

A landmark study finds huge quantities of plastic are entering the ocean. Since much of it isn’t accounted for, we should be concerned about where it’s ending up

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Nearly 200 Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach


February 13th, 2015

Rescuers and volunteers were scrambling on Friday to save nearly 200 pilot whales that were stranded on New Zealand’s South Island.

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Ocean Carbon Release Ended Last Ice Age


February 13th, 2015

Carbon dioxide escaping from the depths of the ocean heralded the end of the last Ice Age, a study suggests.

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Here’s How Much Plastic Ends Up In the World’s Oceans


February 13th, 2015

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans, it’s equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline.

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Robert Young: Seaward of Common Sense? SC Needs to Put an End to Building on the Beach


February 12th, 2015

South Carolina’s beautiful beaches are a vital component of this state’s economy. Managing them wisely is critical to the health of the economy and to ensuring that state and local tax dollars are not wasted on futile efforts to protect homes needlessly placed in areas of obvious high hazard.

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What the World’s Cities Would Look Like If Every Glacier Melted


February 11th, 2015

A planner maps extreme sea level rise, turning Los Angeles, New York, London, and other cities into urban archipelagoes.

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Despite Antarctic Gains, Global Sea Ice Is Shrinking


February 11th, 2015

One of the reasons people care about sea ice decreases is because sea ice is highly reflective, whereas the liquid ocean is very absorptive. When sea ice coverage is reduced, less sunlight is reflected back into space and more is trapped in the atmosphere, ocean, and land.

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Global is the New Local: Pollution Changes Clouds, Climate Downstream


February 10th, 2015

The residents of Beijing and Delhi are not the only ones feeling the effects of Asian air pollution, an unwanted byproduct of coal-fired economic development. The continent’s tainted air is known to cross the Pacific Ocean, adding to homegrown air-quality problems on the U.S. West Coast.

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