The Surfrider Issue: 5 Fights We Need To Win

The Battles In The War To Save The Ocean

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The battlefield changes every day. And while small wars are won and lost, the one constant is there will always be something to fight for when it comes to saving the ocean. Here are five hot-button battles currently being fought at a beach near you. For more info on each of these issues and how you can help, head to Surfrider.org. For our 101 Ways To Help Save The Earth, head here.

1. Offshore Drilling

For nearly three decades, the United States maintained a federal and presidential moratorium on offshore oil drilling. However, since 2008, both Presidents Bush and Obama have allowed those moratoriums to expire, opening the door for new drilling operations—in some cases as close as a mile offshore.  Needless to say, a spill from any one of these rigs (something akin to the recent spill from a platform off the coast of Australia) could cost the United States tens of billions in cleanup costs, revenue losses from tourism and fishing, and destruction of habitat and wildlife.  Not to mention a blanket of thick, sludgy goo covering your surfbreak.

2. Sea Level Rise

While you may not see it in your lifetime, the ongoing loss of polar ice could drastically change the world’s coastal geography.  A recent UN report stated that the world’s oceans could rise by as much as 55 inches by 2100. That means that at certain breaks, the sea level could be nearly five feet higher than it is now. Talk about swamped-out conditions!

3. Waivers

In 1972, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments, which required sewage treatment facilities to achieve secondary treatment capability by 1977. Basically this means that they had to do more than skim the solid, chunky pieces of poo from sewage waste, they had to also treat all the nasty microbes and bacterial elements, as well. However, for the last 38 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been issuing 301(h) waivers to various sewage facilities around the country allowing them to skirt this requirement. Think about that the next time you start feeling that odd tickle in the back of your throat following a surf.

4. Beach Fill

Beaches provide a natural barrier between land and sea.  However, due largely to our damming of coastal rivers and allowing development to build right up to the shoreline, our beaches have been unable to replenish themselves through their natural sand sources.  As a result, cities and coastal communities have resorted to artificially replenishing the sand through dredge and fill, and other types of projects—often with devastating consequences.  Not only do these types of responses yield only temporary results, they have been known—as in the case of New Jersey’s Manasquan Inlet, Florida’s Reef Road, and dozens of other locations—to diminish or destroy surf breaks by burying reefs and other offshore features with sand and sediment

5. Fertilizers

In a report published last year, scientists found evidence linking an increased use of fertilizers with harmful algal blooms (or HABs) in both marine and freshwater ecosystems.  When nitrate and phosphorus-laden runoff from lawns, golf courses, and agricultural lands reaches the ocean, they can trigger massive algal blooms, which then lead to red tides, or worse, great expanses of barren lifeless ocean called “dead zones.”  According to researchers, such events could even pose a significant health hazard to swimmers, surfers, and even coastal residents by causing eye, ear, nose, and throat infections, gastroenteritis, and respiratory problems.