All posts by Coastal Care

Yamba, AU; By Cyrus Sutton

Yamba, AU

By © Cyrus Sutton

Cyrus Sutton is an independent creative whose talents in media production have allowed him to work with many influential people and garnered him a coveted Emmy award at 23 years old.

This lightning shot was taken at 11pm in Yamba, NSW Australia in 2006. He was sitting on a warm, dry, sandy beach watching a brilliant lightning storm drift just offshore and never felt a drop of rain in the two hours he sat on the beach and watched.

Kashima Beach, Japan; By Andrew Cooper

Kahima Beach, Japan

By Andrew Cooper, University of Ulster

Kashima, 80 km east of Tokyo, is one of Japan’s most important ports. It is also at the southern end of a 65 km-long sandy beach that faces the high wave energy of the Pacific Ocean, which has an unbroken fetch of over 7000 km between Japan and North America. A succession of human interventions on Kashima beach renders it one of the most heavily engineered beaches in the world.

Its problems started when a river was diverted from Tokyo Bay in the middle ages to reduce siltation. The river instead carried its sediment directly to the coast and helped build the Kashima beach. As the river mouth migrated south under longshore drift, the northern parts of the beach were left without a sediment source and began to erode. The Port of Kashima, which was developed midway along the beach, soon began to suffer from sediment accumulation from updrift. At the same time, wind-blown dunes supplied with sand from the beach began to migrate landwards across the coastal forest. A series of hammerhead groynes was constructed to try and halt the longshore losses of sand, and sand fences were built to trap the sand that was blowing landwards.

Wave energy on the beach is so great that even some of the massive concrete tetrapod blocks used in the construction of the groynes have been thrown landwards. The groynes not only failed to stop the erosion but have created dangerous rip currents. Subsequent efforts to stabilise the beach have involved constructing an artificial dune, placing concrete blocks and tetrapods on the beach itself and finally, beach nourishment. The nourishment material contains a high proportion of mud and where it has been eroded, an unsightly muddy scarp and localised deposits of mud have been left on the beach surface. The water, in the breaker zone, also as high proportions of suspended muddy sediments. The net effect of all of these interventions is to produce an unsightly beach that depends on continued human intervention to sustain it.

The beach is a perfect example of one ill-conceived human intervention leading to many subsequent actions to try and remediate the original problems.

The beach is also home to an engineering research pier to rival that of Duck, North Carolina. Regular measurements of waves, tide, sediment and seabed level are taken at the site.

The photographs show several views of the beach including the hammerhead groynes, (some of which have been decorated with statues), beach armouring, dune fencing and nourished beach sections. They also show the sand fences in more detail, as well as one of the hammerhead groynes with a statue on top. You will notice that the most close-up photo shows two tetrapods that have been thrown over the structure by the waves.

Ocean Pollution and Ocean Polluters

By Bekah Barlow

Did you know that it’s legal to dump trash in the ocean? Yes, there are limitations for what you can and cannot dump. But it is perfectly acceptable to dump your raw sewage, paper, rags, glass, metal, bottles, or similar refuse, as long as you are at least 12 miles away from the nearest shoreline. It is not permissible to dump plastics anywhere.

Learn the regulations are for proper garbage disposal at sea.

Just how long will your trash last at sea?

Paper towel 2-4 weeks
Orange or banana peel 2-5 weeks
Newspaper 6 weeks
Apple core 2 months
Waxed milk carton 3 months
Plywood 1-3 years
Wool sock 1-5 years
Cigarette filter 1-50 years
Plastic Bag (at least) 10-20 years
Plastic film canister 20-30 years
Nylon Fabric 30-40 years
Leather 50 years
Tin can 50 years
Foamed plastic cup 50 years
Rubber boat sole 50-80 years
Foamed plastic buoy 80 years
Aluminum can 80-200 years
Disposable diapers 450 years
Plastic beverage bottles 450 years
Monofilament fishing line 600 years
Glass Bottle 1,000,000 years

* Quoted in U.S National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, FL and “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” Audobon Magazine, Spt/Oct 1998.  from “Pocket Guide to Marine Debris,” The Ocean Conservancy, 2004

When it comes to cruise ships, this trash can add up. An average-sized cruise ship would house 3,000 passengers and crew. The largest cruise ships can have up to 5,000 passengers and crew. Of these cruise ships:

  • One average-sized cruise ship dumps about 30,000 gallons of human waste into the oceans each day. If that cruise ship is within three miles of a U.S. shoreline, the sewage must be treated, but if they are outside of three miles, they can dump raw, untreated sewage into the oceans.
  • In addition to the 30,000 gallons of sewage, each cruise ship dumps, on average, 255,000 gallons of gray water per day. Gray water includes water used for showers, laundry services, and dishwashing, and will contain soap and chemicals, even toxic chemicals used for photo-processing and dry-cleaning!
  • An average cruise ship will produce seven tons of garbage and solid waste every day! In a year, approximately 15 billion pounds of garbage is dumped into the oceans.
  • The pollution produced by the emissions of one cruise ship in one day equals that of about 12,000 automobiles.

Waikiki Beach; By Andrew Jalbert

Waikiki Beach

By © Andrew Jalbert

Andrew Jalbert has been a professional archaeologist and scuba instructor for over 15 years. During that time, he has worked throughout the Great Lakes Region, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and Hawaii. His award-winning photographic and written freelance work focuses on maritime & tropical subjects (both above and below the water) and he has been published in scuba diving, natural history, fitness, and travel magazines as well as in educational materials and web sites.

Slow speed sepia shot taken near Hawaii’s Waikiki beach at dusk.

Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, France; By Sharlene Pilkey

Saint-Michel-en-Greve, Brittany, France

A Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, Saint-Michel-en- Greve, Brittany, France

By Sharlene Pilkey

With beaches and coastlines all over the world already under attack from sea level rise, pollution, mining, driving, seawall construction and human development encroachment, another menace is mounting an assault. Humans are behind this one too. According to various media reports in France, and the United Kingdom, lethal green algae has invaded heavily used vacation beaches in Brittany, northern France and along England’s coastline from Wales to Portsmouth. Layering in deep piles, up to a meter thick with hard crusting on top, these stinking masses are ticking gas bombs.

Vincent Petit, a 27-year-old veterinarian, was riding horseback on a Brittany beach near Saint-Michel-en-Greve, when his horse broke through the crust and went down. A cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) was released from the rotting algae, reportedly killing the horse within 30 seconds. Fortunately a tractor was nearby which was used to clear away algae and drag Mr. Petit to safety. He was rescued in an unconscious state and hospitalized. Now he is suing the local municipality responsible for beach maintenance.

On June 22, 2009 on the Cotes d’Armor, a 48 year old maintenance worker, clearing the green algae from the beach, was stricken and died apparently from a heart attack, but in recent medical reports the lethal green algae is suspected in his death.

This lethal algae on the French Coast was apparently a product of over fertilization of nearby fields with drainage emptying into the ocean. Towns along the Brittany coastline have hired bulldozers to scrape the seaweed away, but the algae keeps right on coming back.

Earlier, on a beach close to where Mr.Petit’s horse died, two dogs strolling by were killed by the sulfur dioxide. In a strange coincidence indicating the global nature of this problem, the death of two dogs running on an algae encrusted beach was recently reported from north of Auckland, New Zealand, not to mention the four dogs killed in 2009 by toxic beach algae near Elkton, Oregon.

The more one learns about this beach hazard, the more apparent its global scope becomes. Last year, the Chinese government brought in the Army to clear away the slimy green growths so the Olympic sailing competition could be held and so observers could safely view the event. In Italy, near Genoa, a sixty year old man had to be taken to the hospital this year because he swam in algae infested water, and last year in Genoa, more than 200 people were sent to hospital after swimming in the algae or inhaling toxins carried to the beach by the wind. This summer, officials in Massachusetts put out a toxic beach algae warning but did not close the beaches. It’s a problem for fresh water lakes as well.

Some are attributing the algae outbreaks to global warming. Although this may indeed be a factor as our seas warm up, it is clear that excess nitrate rich fertilizers, along with animal wastes and poorly treated or untreated sewage, are the main villains.

The problem is deeper than just hazards to humans. When a beach is covered with algae virtually everything that lives on and within the beach is killed while access is denied to nesting and to food for local birds, fish, sea turtles and various crustaceans. Thus, an entire beach/nearshore ecosystem that includes microscopic organisms (meiofauna) living between sand grains at the bottom of the food chain up to sharks cruising offshore, is wiped out. Simultaneously oxygen is usually depleted in nearshore waters, a threat to marine mammals and sea birds.

Politicians at a high level are finally beginning to pay attention to this problem. After all, beaches are a critical part of the economy of most coastal regions. The French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, announced that the “state would take over the responsibility for cleaning the beaches most affected.” He is also creating an interdepartmental committee to fight proliferation of the green algae and to protect the population and beaches. In other countries local municipalities or health organizations are trying to cope. The problem is of course, the coastal communities themselves did not usually create the toxic situation. At fault is the agribusiness along the coast and nearby rivers using fertilizers to boost production of food.

Hot weather, warm water, fertilized farms near rivers running into the sea are the problem, which disappears with the arrival of fall and winter. Unfortunately, it is always summer somewhere on our planet, and the problem flows from the land to the sea. With over 70 beaches in Northern France In trouble, as is the English coastline from Cardiff Bay to Portsmouth Harbor, coastlines worldwide are under attack. We wonder if this could be the toxic green wave of the future for developed coasts.

France Related Green Algae Resources

China Related Green Algae Resources

General Green Algae Pollution Information

French Official Report

Preserving the health of the Rio de la Plata

rio-del-plata-estuary
NASA astronaut photograph of the Río de la Plata estuary looking west-east. Greater Buenos Aires on the right side of the picture, and Montevideo on the left side. Image source: NASA / Earth Observatory

By Paul Halpern

An ambitious multi-disciplinary “virtual institution,” set up by researchers from Uruguay and Canada, is improving the management and conservation of the 300 kilometre-wide Rio de la Plata, South America’s largest estuary.

“It’s not enough to study sand mining, document where it has happened, and show how it adversely affects the community,” says Dr Robert Fournier, professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “You need to stop it from happening by proposing policies and regulations that say ‘You cannot mine sand on the beaches of Uruguay any more’.”

Ten years of collaborative research by Uruguayan and Canadian researchers on the Rio de la Plata estuary may lead to just those kinds of decisions to preserve the estuary and conserve its valuable resources. The results to date — a wealth of data on many aspects of the river system and coast — have led to the creation of a multistakeholder commission to addresss the region’s problems. In the process, a valuable collaborative network has emerged.

A river system in peril

The Rio de la Plata estuary — the widest in the world — originates at the junction of the Uruguay and Parana rivers. Its watershed begins in central Brazil, at the divide between the Amazon and the Rio de la Plata basins. On its 1,000 kilometre journey to the sea, the Rio de la Plata collects water from many rivers that flow from the highlands of Brazil, Northern Argentina, the south of Brazil, and Paraguay. Before emptying into the Atlantic, the river passes by Montevideo (population 1.5 million), the resort city of Punta del Este (population 500,000 at peak vacation period) on the northern coast, and Buenos Aires (population 13 million) on its southern boundary.

A wide range of aquatic species thrive in the estuary which separates Uruguay and Argentina, making the Rio de la Plata system the main fishing grounds for both artisanal fishers and an inshore industrial fleet.

But the estuary faces many complex problems. Close to 70 percent of Uruguay’s 3.3 million people, for instance, live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Human activity creates marine pollution and accelerates beach and dune erosion. Deforestation and mechanized agriculture also cause soil erosion, which leads to sedimentation. In addition, inappropriate sand mining techniques contribute to coastal degradation. Fisheries are also being rapidly depleted. Not surprisingly, the ecosystem’s deterioration is affecting both local populations and the tourism industry.

Virtual institution, real collaboration

Canada began to take an interest in the Rio de la Plata in 1991 when, during a state visit to Canada, Uruguayan President Louis Lacalle signed a memorandum of understanding with Dalhousie University. Drawing on this agreement, President Lacalle proposed a “university of the sea” at Punta del Este.

After visiting Uruguay in 1992, however, Dr Fournier and Anthony Tillett, of Dalhousie’s Lester B. Pearson International Institute, had a different idea: to create a “virtual institution” that would bring together Canadian and Uruguayan agencies to identify and address coastal zone problems. Two years later, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) launched the Integrated Coastal Zone Management of the Rio de la Plata Support Program, which has become known as the EcoPlata project.

EcoPlata began modestly. At first, “it was an attempt to determine whether we could help the participants work together,” says Dr Fournier. The partners included the Faculty of Science at Uruguay’s Universidad de la República; the Servicio de Oceanografía, Hidrografía y Meteorología de la Armada (SOHMA); the Instituto Nacional de Pesca (INAPE); and REDES — Amigos de la Tierra, a nongovernmental organization. Canadian participants included IDRC; Dalhousie University; Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia; and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

A first investigation focused on how environmental factors and human activities affect the spawning and nursery grounds of the “white croaker” or corvina, an important species for both artisanal and commercial fisheries. The corvina accounts for about 14 percent of the total catch in the estuary, but fishing yields have been dropping in recent years.

“This was a key cross-cutting issue,” says Dr Fournier. “It allowed physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, and so forth to work together on the same question: what is it about sediments, about pollutants, about water circulation that influences the croaker and has a long-term effect on its success?”

While this effort generated a number of valuable studies, it also proved that the participating institutions could work effectively as a team. The result? In 1997, when the EcoPlata initiative was renewed, both its scope and level of financial support expanded significantly.

A broader effort

The broader EcoPlata project is pursuing a number of approaches examining the perspectives for sustainably developing the estuary. These include:

  • establishing a multi-stakeholder integrated coastal zone management initiative involving research in fisheries, oceanography, environmental protection, and urban planning;
  • developing a coastal policy and planning framework with national and municipal authorities;
  • establishing sustainable financial mechanisms for coastal management;
  • promoting Canadian partnerships; and
  • fostering technology transfer for coastal management.

Funders include IDRC, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and Uruguay’s Ministry of Housing, Territorial Planning, and Environment.

In the four years since this initiative was launched, researchers have initiated a variety of activities. They began by assessing the Uruguayan side of the estuary. Using the data obtained, they developed a geographic information system to help with planning. The project identified three pilot sites, which enabled the team to focus its energies on areas with high potential, and then replicate results elsewhere.

Researchers also monitored trends — temperature, tides, salinity, and nutrient content, as well as water contamination, pressure on resources, beach erosion, and solid waste on the beaches. Ultimately, the team addressed some of the more critical issues, including the need to protect coastal areas through the creation of parkland, and to reduce the impact of solid waste pollution around communities without access to adequate sanitation services.

From research to policy

The Uruguayan government has committed CAN$430,000 to continue EcoPlata over the next three years. According to Dr Fournier, one of the most important indicators of success will be how participants translate the research into effective policies. The thematic GIS-based maps on the coastal area, for example, address issues such as land cover, actual land use, infrastructure, agricultural output, industrial activities, services, demographic data, and artisanal fisheries. The team will use this data to propose policy guidelines for more sustainable practices.

As a result of this ongoing effort, the EcoPlata project has gained credibility with policymakers. This was clearly manifested in May 2001, when the Uruguayan government created a special commission to address the Rio de la Plata coastal zone. The commission brings together national and municipal authorities, as well as coastal police and tourism institutions. Given its growing stature and networking capacity, EcoPlata was appointed as the commission’s Technical Secretariat.

Paul Halpern is a science and environment writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For more information:
Dr Robert O. Fournier, Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3J5;

Dr Walter Couto, Project leader (Uruguay), Pza. Cagancha 1335, 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay

Original Article, IDRC Canada (09-28-2001)

Staten Island; By Joni Sternbach

Staten Island

By © Joni Sternbach

“I stumbled upon this while scouting in Staten Island. It was an interesting art-like structure with no apparent purpose, It reminded me of the remains of some former habitation, whether civilian or military—it’s unclear, but I believe it was designed to give that impression. I went back a couple of times and then suddenly, one day it was gone.”
 Joni Sternbach

My pictures over recent years engage traditions of landscape, seascape, and architectural photography. Working with a large-format camera and historic process (wet-plate collodion), I have concentrated on locations that are close to or directly on the water. At this juncture between land and sea, I explore subject matter in a constant state of transition.

For the last year I have been drawn to the people present at these locations, specifically the surfers in Montauk’s Ditch Plains, at the eastern end of Long Island. Their avocation is on the water; they are persistent elements in a shifting scene. We overlap on the periphery of two powerful elements; the land and the sea. The singular, primitive act of surfing on the water is eclipsed by the social and negotiated state of human interaction on the shore. The surfers act as a bridge between the sea as an unbridled force of nature and the shore line, a place of leisure and cultural phenomena.

Working with a “wet” instantaneous process that must be prepared and developed on location serves me well. It draws spectators as well as entices new subjects. Using collodion compels me to compose carefully before sensitizing the plate, yet its very nature is spontaneous and unknowable. The raw quality of the process suits the subject matter, and the distinctive appearance of the finished works echoes nineteenth-century traditions of anthropological photography.

Nihiwatu Beach, Sumba, Indonesia; By Olaf Guerrand

Nihiwatu Beach, Sumba, Indonesia

By Olaf Guerrand

For the month of September we have picked “Nihiwatu Beach”, a natural, beautiful and mostly undeveloped beach on the island of Sumba, Indonesia.

Sumba, formerly known as “Sandalwood Island”, is located southeast of the Indonesian archipelago, west of Papua; the island has an area of 11,155 square kilometer (4,306 square mile), mountains up to 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) high, approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) long and 100 (62) wide and no volcanoes. The island’s population was officially at 611,422 as of 2005.

Discovered in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, Sumba was incorporated into the Dutch East Indies in 1866. However, the island had very little contact with the outside world and remained, throughout history, largely “ignored” due to its lack of natural resources and fierce warriors (famous headhunters). Although, at one point the island was forested with aromatic sandalwood, before it was stripped bare by Arab, Malay, Indian and Chinese traders. The island was also known for its small and versatile horses, which were purchased by the British Royal Navy to fight its colonial wars.

Due to its insularity, Sumba has a powerful and authentic culture, which has remained largely uninfluenced by the outside world. Sumba is known for its unique hand-woven “ikat” fabric. Also, its people are one of the last great living Megalithic cultures in the world to bury prominent individuals when they die (it was current practice during the Neolithic and Bronze Age). A majority of the population is animist, the traditional religion; however, due to the influx of missionaries in recent history, many have converted to Christianity.

Unfortunately, the health situation on the island is extremely poor; a high percentage of the population suffers from malaria, malnourishment, bad hygiene and is uneducated.

The coast is mostly unspoiled, undeveloped and the island is of pristine natural beauty.

Nihiwatu Beach is located at the west end of the southern shores of the island facing the Indian Ocean. The beach has a half moon shape, with south and west exposures. At its two extremities, two reefs protect the beach from severe storms and are largely responsible for the white colored sand. The reefs are also a great source of food for the local villagers.

The first picture was taken from a hilltop and shows an overview of the beach looking west (photo Nancy Opitz).

The second picture, also looking west, shows the beach at low tide and displays a beautiful solitary rock (photo Nancy Opitz).

The third and fourth pictures show “natural” erosion, with trees and vegetation falling into the ocean, as well as the landward retreat of the shoreline. As the beach is mostly undeveloped, with the exception of the eastern end where an eco lodge named after the beach is located, this natural process is not a problem, unlike many other parts of the world where beaches are crowded with constructions built to close to the ocean. On the south shorelines of Sumba most villages were built on hilltops to protect themselves against invaders and storms.

The eco lodge at Nihiwatu co-founded The Sumba Foundation, an American foundation, which provides water wells, improved health and education initiatives to tens of thousands of Sumbanese villagers. Nihiwatu is also an international leader in the “responsible tourism” movement (For more information please see sumbafoundation.org).

The fifth picture shows local villagers fishing the eastern reef (photo Nancy Opitz).