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

Seagrass Thrives Surprisingly Well in Toxic Sediments, But Still Dies All Over The World

New studies of seagrasses reveal that they are surprisingly good at detoxifying themselves when growing in toxic seabed. But if seagrasses are stressed by their environment, they lose the ability and die. All over the world seagrasses are increasingly stressed.

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Adele Island


An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Adele Island, off of Australia’s north coast. Adele Island has been classified as an important bird area because it is a breeding site of world importance for lesser frigatebirds and three other species.

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Toxic Algae Blooming in Warm Water from California to Alaska

A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago.

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Shell Oil is racing to sink its drills into the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea — and the Obama Administration has given them the green light. This comes despite the government’s own estimates that there’s a 75% chance of a major oil spill in the Arctic Ocean…


The Barrier Islands: Islands in Motion

North Carolina is famous for its beautiful set of coastal barrier islands. But did you know that those islands are mobile? Around 14 thousand years ago, as the last ice age was coming to a close, sea level began to rise as water was released from the glaciers.

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New Insights on Hurricane Intensity, Pollution Transport

News, Pollution

Researchers study currents that fuel hurricanes and transport pollutants to coastal beaches.

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Bering Sea Hotspot for Corals and Sponges

North of the Aleutian Islands, submarine canyons in the cold waters of the eastern Bering Sea contain a highly productive “green belt” that is home to deep-water corals as well as a plethora of fish and marine mammals.

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Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast Is The Beautiful Place You’ve Never Been

While travelers can hike the Na Pali coast or adore it from afar during a helicopter or boat tour, the kayak seems to outshine all other modes of transportation for exploring this remote Kauai paradise.

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The Wild Alaskan Lands at Stake If the Pebble Mine Moves Ahead

News, Pollution

The proposed Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska is a project of almost unfathomable scale. The mine would cover 28 square miles and require the construction of the world’s largest earthen dam — 700 feet high and several miles long — to hold back a 10-square-mile containment pond filled with up to 2.5 billion tons of sulfide-laden mine waste.

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Recent / Inform

Peru Planning to Dam Amazon’s Main Source and Displace 1000s

May 28th, 2015

Peru is proposing to build more than 20 dams on the main trunk of the currently free-flowing River Maranon, which births in the Andes and is the River Amazon’s main source.

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Croatian Dilemma: Oil in the Adriatic, or Tourism

May 28th, 2015

Despite surging opposition to pumping crude in the waters of one of Europe’s fastest-growing summer travel destinations, the Croatian government is determined to boost the state’s poor finances by offering several exploration licenses to foreign energy companies.

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Whale Washes Ashore In 12th Recent Death in California

May 28th, 2015

Another dead whale washed ashore in Northern California, the 12th carcass that has appeared in the past few months and marks a higher-than-normal number of deaths.

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U.S. Hopes Chinese Island-Building Will Spur Asian Response

May 28th, 2015

Washington hopes Southeast Asian nations to take a more united stance against China’s rapid acceleration this year of construction on disputed reefs.

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Mysterious Oil Globs Close 7 Miles of Los Angeles-Area Beach

May 28th, 2015

Nearly 7 miles of Los Angeles-area coastline was closed to beachgoers Thursday as scientists investigated mysterious balls of tar washing ashore.

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Croatan Beach Residents Say too Much Dredging Hurts Shoreline, VA

May 27th, 2015

The dredging main goal is the same as it is every year: to replace sand and build up dunes on a public beach that gets pummeled by storms nearly every winter.

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When You Drill, You Spill.

May 27th, 2015

The Santa Barbara County spill, one of the largest in California history, reiterates what we already know: We can’t extract oil and transport it without putting our beaches, wildlife, and coastal communities at risk. The sad fact is, when you drill, you spill.

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Lough Neagh Unauthorized Sand-Dredging, Ireland

May 27th, 2015

The Department of the Environment will confirm how it intends to deal with the controversial issue of sand dredging in Lough Neagh in the next few days. Sand has been removed from the lough since the 1930s, and is used to supply the construction industry.

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Potential of Seagrass to Combat Climate Change

May 26th, 2015

Seagrass ecosystems could play a key role in combating climate change, researchers have discovered. However, due to their shallow coastal habitat the aquatic plant is particularly prone to human disturbance – globally 24 per cent of seagrass species are now classified as threatened or near threatened.

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Nature Confronts Politics in North Carolina

May 26th, 2015

As local politicians underestimate rising sea levels, coastal communities are coming up with their own plans.

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