Why We Should Care for Beaches

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Helping the Sea Recover

Is it possible to help the shellfish beds recover? Can we cut down on litter pollution of beaches? Can we prevent the loss of protective sand dunes? Is our local beach in trouble or headed that way?

All these questions can be answered if the communities who live near beaches decide to participate in regular scientific sampling of the resources. In communities like Cheltenham Beach and schools like Howick College, surveying shellfish beds has become an important and enjoyable activity, one that may well lead to a recovery of these endangered shellfish. People in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Auckland Regions are getting together on weekends to replant sand dunes with native vegetation as a buffer zone against waves. Other groups, often with as many as 500 people, head off to clean litter from beaches and find clues to its origins.

These actions may prove to be important, as the condition of our beaches are indicators of the health of our seas. Helping beaches recover may be a first step in beginning the general recovery of our oceans.

A Beach Keeper National Database

The Ministry of Fisheries, Regional Councils, City Councils, and conservation groups like Island Care Trust and Sea Keepers (Charitable Trust) will help communities throughout New Zealand establish the condition of their beaches and shellfish beds. They will use the information to ascertain the national state of the environment. That way you'll be sure that the information you collect today will be there years from now, letting everyone know exactly how the beaches and shellfish populations (and the health of the nearshore environments) have been doing.

Professional biologists from local, city, regional and national organisations are urged to participate in these surveys, and lend professional scientific guidance to the community and school projects.

Educational Benefits

Beach Keeping offers opportunities to develop integrated learning themes within the New Zealand Science and Social Studies Curriculums It is especially useful for requirements in: Making Sense of the Living World, Making Sense of the Physical World, Making Sense of Planet Earth & Beyond. The projects help teachers develop a cohesive science theme related to community use and care of living resources.

Students learn to conduct public opinion polls, organise a scientific expedition, take scientific samples, draw maps, handle and measure specimens, record data, construct a hypothesis and test it, analyse data, develop spreadsheets and graphs, write reports and network scientific information on-line with a national and an international scientific database.

Community Benefits

Beach Keeping will work best when schools and community groups conduct the research together and the project becomes an annual social event. It offers an excellent student/ teacher/ parent activity and, at the same time, provides a sense of community responsibility towards important environmental goals. Litter on beaches devalues these important community resources, detracts from their aesthetic enjoyment, and is a danger to wildlife.

Knowing what is littering the beaches is the first step in prevention of littering. The shellfish are biological indicators of the health of the near-shore waters. In the course of studying them, community members begin to understand how their day to day actions may either harm or enhance their natural surroundings.

Your studies will enable your local and regional councils and resource managers to make important decisions about how to protect beaches from litter and how to regulate the use of shellfish and the beaches.

Most importantly, the community will have the opportunity to participate in the future of their coastal resources and improve the chances for a healthier and more productive ocean environment.

Scientific Benefits

Regular shoreline surveys are the only way to determine how the coastal environment is changing. The costs involved with Government or professional scientists doing these surveys over a large area are simply too great and so they are not done. When communities complain that their shellfish have gone or the sand is vanishing from their beach, scientists can seldom provide any real evidence as to what really happened. Without repeated surveys, doing anything constructive to help becomes sheer guesswork.

Just as the census helps planners assess the changes that are going on in our population, a census of shellfish, litter, and dune habitats - especially over large areas of New Zealand's coastline - can provide invaluable tools for resource and community planning with real benefits to the people who enjoy our beaches and our seafoods.