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

Ex-Mayor 4-year-term jail sentence over storm deaths, overturned by French Court

Overturning the first degree of jurisdiction’s sentence of last December, the former mayor of a Vendée town has been handed by the Poitiers Court of Appeal, a two-year suspended sentence in connection with the deaths of 29 people during Storm Xynthia in 2010.

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Indonesia’s contested land reclamation projects

Bali Plastic Pollution

There are more than 15 planned reclamation projects across Indonesia, including a $3 billion project to build artificial islands in the middle of Benoa Bay in Bali. This proposed reclamation has spawned one of the largest environmental movements in Indonesia’s history.

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Increased flooding, accelerated sea-level rise in Miami over last decade, new study shows

Miami Beach flood events have significantly increased over the last decade due to an acceleration of sea-level rise in South Florida, a new report warns. The researchers suggest that regional sea-level projections should be used in place of global projections to better prepare for future flood hazards in the region.

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Is the Ocean Melting the Ice?

Global sea level rise is one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century, and Greenland is central to the problem. That massive ice sheet touches the sea along more than 44,000 kilometers of jagged coastline, and the ice sheet is not just melting from warm air temperatures above; it is also likely being melted from water below.

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Study: Sand nourishment linked to fewer marine life

UC San Diego biologists who examined the biological impact of replenishing eroded beaches with offshore sand found that such beach replenishment efforts could have long-term negative impacts on coastal ecosystems.

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Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching hits “extreme level”

Coral bleaching, a phenomenon that can result in the widespread die-off of coral life, is a serious problem facing the world’s oceans, and according to a new aerial survey of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, 95 percent of the reef’s northern section is now bleached, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

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Desert mangroves are major source of carbon storage, study shows

Short, stunted mangroves living along the coastal desert of Baja California store up to five times more carbon below ground than their lush, tropical counterparts, researchers have found. The new study estimates that coastal desert mangroves, which only account for 1 percent of the land area, store nearly 30 percent of the region’s belowground carbon.

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Sea levels set to ‘rise far more rapidly than expected’

New research factors in collapsing Antarctic ice sheet that could double the sea-level rise to two metres by 2100 if emissions are not cut

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UN Begins Negotiations on Treaty to Protect Marine Resources

The United Nations has begun negotiations for a new legally binding treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological resources in the world’s oceans – nearly 64 percent of which lie beyond national jurisdiction.

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Recent / Inform

Seeing the Reef for the Corals

January 31st, 2016

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

January 30th, 2016

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

January 30th, 2016

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


January 30th, 2016

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

January 30th, 2016

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

January 29th, 2016

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

January 28th, 2016

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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Spain court finds captain, British insurer liable for Prestige oil spill

January 27th, 2016

Spain’s Supreme Court said Tuesday it had found the captain, British insurer and owner of an oil tanker that broke up off northwestern Spain in 2002 liable for one of Europe’s worst environmental disasters.

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Climate change: Ocean warming underestimated

January 27th, 2016

To date, research on the effects of climate change has underestimated the contribution of seawater expansion to sea level rise due to warming of the oceans. A team of researchers has now investigated, using satellite data, that this effect was almost twice as large over the past twelve years than previously assumed. That may result in, for example, significantly increased risks of storm surges.

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Bill Introduced to Cap Old Oil Wells

January 26th, 2016

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has just introduced a bill to monitor and cap California’s old, abandoned and leaking oil wells. It is estimated that there are more than 200 of these so-called ‘legacy’ wells in California, the majority located along the Summerland and Ellwood beaches in Santa Barbara County and along the Central Coast.

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