Human civilization developed naturally around the ocean. Over the years, seashore houses grew into towering high-rises and small beach towns turned into booming population hubs. Today, one out of every two people lives within 60 kilometers of a coast, and more than 61% of the world’s total GNP comes from regions within 100 kilometers of the ocean.

The extensive overdevelopment of Earth’s shorelines coupled with the concentration of harmful human activities has caused adjacent marine ecosystems to suffer disproportionately. Agricultural, industrial, urban, and commercial development has degraded and destroyed key marine habitats around the world.

When human populations and developments expanded worldwide, the coastal landscape and connected drainage basins were significantly altered, increasing the volume of land-based pollution. Since trees and vegetation stabilize shorelines and filter pollutants, deforestation for agricultural, residential, or industrial settlements results in increased sediment, nutrient, and chemical runoff into coastal habitats. Sedimentation suffocates coral reefs, plankton, and aquatic vegetation, which need sunlight to survive. While the influx of sewage and land-based pollutants poisons the local food web and changes water chemistry, ultimately making the water inhospitable to most sea life. For instance, the nations of Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific are known to discharge 80-90% of their untreated sewage into the ocean. Studies have shown that beach sand, even in the U.S., contains 100 times more fecal matter than adjacent, contaminated seawater.

Coastal construction projects, though focused on land, often negatively affect adjacent ocean ecosystems. Dredging, land filling, the building of piers and shipping channels, and beach renourishment projects can quickly destroy entire coral colonies and beach habitats, undermining the chances of survival for all dependent fish, bird, mammal, and turtle species.

Artificial light and noise pollution more gradually degrade marine ecosystems. For instance, baby sea turtles, which follow the moonlight back to the ocean, are being led away from the water’s safety and into danger by lighting from nearby developments. Noise from boat traffic and beach-goers is proving deafening to dolphins, whales, and even coral larvae, all which depend on sound to communicate, hunt, and orient themselves.

Built in reaction to erosion and storm surges, coastal armoring structures inadvertently degrade essential coastal habitats. Seawalls and jetties prevent nutrient flow to dune ecosystems, ultimately deteriorating vital beach and off-shore ecosystems. Healthy beach vegetation, mangroves, and marshes act as extremely effective natural wave barriers. 15 feet of marsh can absorb 50% of all incoming wave energy, while mangroves can reduce over 66% of wave height—slowing erosion and reducing flood risk. Unfortunately, more and more coastlines are being covered with protective concrete walls. In the U.S. alone, over 14,000 miles of natural coastline have been covered by concrete walls— with an estimated 33% hardened with man-made structures by 2100. Climate change and human population growth are only going to exacerbate erosion, sedimentation, and pollution run-off. Unsustainable and unregulated development is directly and indirectly destroying vital marine ecosystems— inadvertently making coastal populations even more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Stop Unsustainable Development

Dear Representative,

Currently, about 14% of America’s natural shoreline has been replaced with concrete walls, and that number is expected to more than double by 2100. Concrete walls remove healthy habitat for sea life as well as reduce biodiversity. Man-made structures also prevent natural migrations and can cause seaward erosion. I am writing to you as a supporter of legislation that will defend our blue planet against unsustainable development. It is critical to limit the effects of the global threat of unsustainable development by taking action. Unsustainable development greatly affects our coral reefs, sea life, sea turtles, sharks and rays, polar seas, tourism and seafood industries, and our beaches.

Protecting marine ecosystems from the effects of unsustainable development requires urgent and global action, and we can set an example for the rest of the world. I urge you to enact and support legislation that protects and defends marine ecosystems from unsustainable development by focusing on reducing dredging, land filling, building of shipping channels, beach nourishment projects, noise pollution, and sewage dumping. Please also vote against legislation that would worsen the effects of unsustainable development.

Thank you for representing my views and for being an Ocean Hero!

Sincerely,

Dear Representative,

Currently, about 14% of America’s natural shoreline has been replaced with concrete walls, and that number is expected to more than double by 2100. Concrete walls remove healthy habitat for sea life as well as reduce biodiversity. Man-made structures also prevent natural migrations and can cause seaward erosion. I am writing to you as a supporter of legislation that will defend our blue planet against unsustainable development. It is critical to limit the effects of the global threat of unsustainable development by taking action. Unsustainable development greatly affects our coral reefs, sea life, sea turtles, sharks and rays, polar seas, tourism and seafood industries, and our beaches.

Protecting marine ecosystems from the effects of unsustainable development requires urgent and global action, and we can set an example for the rest of the world. I urge you to enact and support legislation that protects and defends marine ecosystems from unsustainable development by focusing on reducing dredging, land filling, building of shipping channels, beach nourishment projects, noise pollution, and sewage dumping. Please also vote against legislation that would worsen the effects of unsustainable development.

Thank you for representing my views and for being an Ocean Hero!

Sincerely,

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