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

Illegal Sand Mining in South Africa, a Report

News, Sand Mining

Natural sand from estuary and coastal land is one of South Africa’s most valuable resources. However, there has recently been a drastic increase in uncontrolled and unauthorised sand mining activities in rivers, valleys and estuaries throughout the country.

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Nicaragua Defies Canal Protests


Nicaragua has great expectations for the Grand Canal, a US$50-billion, 5-year project to link its Caribbean and Pacific coasts with a 280-kilometre waterway. But the plan has attracted protests from residents along the proposed route and from scientists around the world.

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Coral Reveals Long-Term Link Between Pacific Winds, Global Climate


New research indicates that shifts in Pacific trade winds played a key role in twentieth century climate variation and are likely again influencing global temperatures. The study uses a novel method of analyzing coral chemistry to reveal winds from a century ago.

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Tsunami Science: Advances Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tragedy


On the 10th anniversary of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami, greatly expanded networks of seismic monitors and ocean buoys are on alert for the next killer wave in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Caribbean. In fact, tsunami experts can now forecast how tsunamis will flood distant coastlines hours before the waves arrive.

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Australia’s Supertrawler Ban is Flawed, Say Environmental and Fishing Groups


The federal government’s ban on supertrawlers is inadequate because it defines ships only by size and not by industrial fishing capacity.

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Russia Battles to Contain Black Sea Oil Spill

News, Pollution

A Russian Black Sea city declared a state of emergency Thursday after a burst pipeline spewed oil into the landlocked water body, with stormy weather hampering cleanup efforts.

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Moral Compass Not Quarterly Figures Must Dominate in Business


Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr Scilla Elworthy, says rethinking the definition of success encourages businesspeople to devote their skills to the good of the planet.

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Rising in the East


As the 2014 calendar year closes and the solstice marks the turning point in the Sun’s march across the sky, many religions and cultures are celebrating festivals. The cradle of those religions —and of much of modern civilization— was captured in a photograph by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS).

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Aceh at 10 – A look Back at the Response


A decade after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Aceh, the isolated tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island on the morning of 24 December 2004, IRIN looks at the unprecedented aid response, its impact, and how local people continue to be affected.

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Recent / Inform

Countries With Poor Marine Safety Records Linked to Oil Spill Vessels


November 4th, 2014

More than half of ships involved in the 100 largest oil spills of the past three decades were registered in states that consistently fail to comply with international safety and environmental standards, researchers have determined.

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Inside Pakistan’s Untapped Fishing Industry


November 4th, 2014

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Pakistan, nearly 400 million gallons per day of untreated waste from Karachi goes into the sea, making a fisherman’s job an extremely dirty one.

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Hydropower: Huge Source of Methane Emissions


November 3rd, 2014

Reservoirs and hydropower are often thought of as climate friendly because they don’t burn fossil fuels to produce electricity. But what if reservoirs that store water and produce electricity were among some of the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions?

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Massive Geographic Change May Have Triggered Rise in Sea Level and Explosion of Animal Life


November 3rd, 2014

New research suggests a major tectonic event may have triggered the rise in sea level and other environmental changes that accompanied the apparent burst of life, 530 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion.

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That Sinking Feeling: Rising Sea Level Isn’t Cities’ Only Water Worry


November 3rd, 2014

Some of the world’s expanding coastal cities face a two-pronged threat involving water: excessive groundwater pumping can cause the ground below to sink at the same time that sea levels are rising.

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What New York City Can Learn From Its Relationship With The Sea


October 31st, 2014

From the days when Mannahatta island was home to the indigenous Lenape tribe to today’s five-borough metropolis that houses more than 8 million people, one thing has remained constant: the story of New York City cannot be separated from water.

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Sargassum Inundates the Beaches of the Caribbean


October 31st, 2014

Massive amounts of pelagic sargassum have ben washing up on Carribean beaches for the past few months. According to Mission Blue friend Martha Gilkes of Antigua, the seaweed drifts are getting as high as 3 to 4 feet on some beaches.

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Retreat of the Columbia Glacier


October 31st, 2014

Scientists have long studied Alaska’s fast-moving Columbia Glacier, a tidewater glacier that descends through the Chugach Mountains into Prince William Sound. Yet the river of ice continues to deliver new surprises.

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India’s Central Government To Take Up Illegal Sand Mining With States


October 30th, 2014

Concerned over large scale illegal sand mining across states, the Union mines ministry has convened meeting of all States and Union Territories next week to discuss the legal and administrative frameworks in place in each state to govern sand mining and the actual experience of states in handling such cases.

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Oceans Arrived Early to Earth, New Study Finds


October 30th, 2014

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface and are home to the world’s greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life on the planet, the answers to two key questions have eluded us: where did Earth’s water come from and when?

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