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

A Fresh View of Europe’s New Arrival


Croatia joined the European Union on July 1st, becoming the 28th member, but this Adriatic nation has been tempting tourists to its shores for years. Despite its booming popularity and bewitching coastline, Croatia remains in places quaintly underdeveloped.

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Sinking Islands


In the south of Bangladesh, one of the countries most at threat from climate change, entire islands are being washed away by tidal surges and storms leaving their inhabitants in increasingly desperate straits. A IRIN video documentary.

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No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers The Remote Shores of Alaska


A marine biologist traveled to southwestern Alaska in search of ocean trash that had washed up along a magnificent coast rich in fish, birds, and other wildlife. He and his colleagues found plenty of trash – as much as a ton of garbage per mile on some beaches.

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Sustainable Energy On Sinking Islands: United Arab Emirates Puts Wind Turbines In Seychelles


The project links a pair of strange bedfellows: One is an oil-rich Persian Gulf state of 8 million ruled by a dynastic monarchy, and the other is a democratically governed island nation of 86,000 where tropical beaches and hotels lure more than 200,000 well-heeled tourists every year.

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Scientists Discover Thriving Colonies of Microbes in Ocean ‘Plastisphere’

News, Pollution

Scientists have discovered a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans—a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the “plastisphere.”

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Sand Thieves Are Eroding World’s Beaches For Castles Of Cash


The pillaging of sand is a growing practice in the world. Taken by hand, three or four meters deep in the Maldives archipelago, or transported on a donkey, or sucked up by huge sand boats in Asia, coastal sand mining, authorized or unlawful, is exploding.

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How Should We Respond When Humans and Sharks Collide?


With more and more people using the ocean, the way we talk about shark attacks and the methods governments use to reduce the risk of shark bites have evolved over time. A study of how the public and governments respond to shark bites in North America, Australia, and Africa.

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Simultaneous Disasters Batter Pacific Islands


High tides have surged over sea walls defending the capital of the Marshall Islands, adding to the crisis situation in this tiny Pacific nation, where a state of emergency was declared only last month because of a devastating drought in the scattered northern atolls.

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Chinese Beaches Overwhelmed by Algae

News, Pollution

The seas of China have been hit by their largest ever growth of algae. A large quantity of non-poisonous green seaweed, enteromorpha prolifera, hit the Qingdao coast in recent days. More than 20,000 tons of such seaweed has been removed from the city’s beaches.

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Recent / Inform

Earth’s Mantle Affects Sea Level Rise Estimates


May 16th, 2013

Scientists have to be careful when looking at Earth for evidence of past sea level changes from the planet’s cycles of glacial advance and retreat.

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10 Million Pounds of Trash Removed from Waterways, Coasts, Beaches: 2013 ICC Data


May 15th, 2013

For nearly three decades, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) has mobilized millions of people in the world’s largest volunteer effort for our ocean, coasts and waterways. Volunteers pulled 10 million lbs. of trash, equivalent to the weight of 41 blue whales, from 17,719 miles (28,516 kilometers) of global waterways and beaches…

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Research Helps Paint Finer Picture of Massive 1700 Earthquake and Tsunami


May 15th, 2013

Researchers’ work provides a finer-grained portrait of a 1700 massive earthquake that struck the west coast of North America, and the changes in coastal land level it produced, enabling modelers to better prepare for future events.

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BUEI exhibit a stark warning of ocean’s plastic pollution


May 13th, 2013

Judie Clee’s collection of flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on Bermuda’s beaches is as amazing as it is disturbing.

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Australia: Paraglider Snaps Epic Rip Current Vortex


May 12th, 2013

Anyone who has been caught in a rip current knows how scary it can be, but seen from a unique perspective, (not to mention a safe distance) this one is just awesome.

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Jervis Bay, New South Wales


May 11th, 2013

The brilliant sands of Jervis Bay owe their color (or lack of it) to the relentless action of water from old rivers, and rising and falling seas over thousands of years. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the sands around Jervis Bay are the whitest in the world. These sands are also finer than typical ocean beach sand.

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Shell Presses Ahead With World’s Deepest Offshore Oil Well


May 8th, 2013

Royal Dutch Shell is pressing ahead with the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas production facility by pushing the boundaries of technology and drilling almost two miles (3.2 km) underwater in the politically sensitive Gulf of Mexico…

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Sand Mined From Pakiri Beach is Irreplaceable, New Zealand


May 8th, 2013

Auckland City’s recreation committee chairman, says a $5 million beach rebuilding plan is gathering momentum. Where, however, does he hope to source the sand for the next eight Auckland beaches requiring replenishment?

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Mercury Pollution Threatens Arctic Foxes


May 7th, 2013

New scientific results show that arctic foxes accumulate dangerous levels of mercury if they live in coastal habitats and feed on prey which lives in the ocean.

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The Black Sea is a Goldmine of Ancient Genetic Data


May 7th, 2013

The semi-isolated Black Sea is highly sensitive to climate driven environmental changes, and the underlying sediments represent high-resolution archives of past continental climate and concurrent hydrologic changes in the basin.

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