Five signs of a healthy beach

Boracay Island before and lately, the over-crowded White Beach

There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed ~ Mahatma Gandhi

With the recent ruckus about a mega development  in Boracay Island, Philippines side by side its latest accolades, voted as 2012 World’s Best Islands by Travel+Leisure and Best Beach in the World, Number 1 in Asia by TripAdvisor, all the more this island’s authorities and stakeholders should protect and conserve it for future generations. IF they wish to see it thriving  in the next 30 years yet.

The Boracay Initiative Presentation at the First Environmental Forum

In our efforts to organize The Boracay Initiative, where we have sought the institutional support from international organizations in marine and coastal ecological systems conservation, we learned these five signs of a healthy beach from Nature Conservancy. Likewise, the Philippines’ concerned agencies as well as citizens in general should take action to protect their 7,107 islands!

Lack of development is just one sign of a HEALTHY beach. I’ll take an undeveloped beach anytime than one that is teeming with people (and consequently  trash and heavy footprints) without regard for ecological balance, so, if you care enough about your favorite beach, make sure it has these top five signs in keeping it healthy and ensure its sustainability!

Postcard photo by Rene Thalman of Boracay White Beach circa late 80s

1) Shells and Wildlife

In the late 80s, in my first time to Boracay, a stroll along White Beach as well as uninhabited Puka Beach will reveal a sparkling assortment of seashells and abundance of green moss or algae that turn ultimately turns into white dust when dried,washed up by the gentle waves and also after the monsoon season. From surf clams to ghost crabs, the treasures that  surface after this season reveal the diversity of life hidden in the water.

The line of marine debris (NOT trash) left over after high tide is a source of food and an important breeding ground for fish and other aqua species.


2) Natural Sand banks

Sand banks are a coastal community’s lifeguards. These sandy mounds — and their  low-growing plants (not to be confused with weeds!) — protect the beaches in  front of them and the land behind them. Running parallel to the shoreline, gentle sloping sand dunes provide a buffer for our roads and protect infrastructure from floods. They also provide nesting habitat and a sand reserve, which comes in andy after sand shifts as a result of a storm or moonsoon rains.

How could Boracay stakeholders let this happen to the "World's Best Island"?

Zoning and carrying capacity limits should be observed in order to maintain natural natural cycles in marine-coastal eco systems and their influence in global warming and climate change.

There must be enough room behind the beach for the dunes to move landward  in the face of storms and sea-level rise”.  Zoning and carrying capacity limits should be observed in order to maintain natural natural cycles in marine-coastal eco systems and their influence in global warming and climate change.

3) Good Water Quality

After a heavy rainfall, storm water can overwhelm sewage systems. That yucky runoff also picks up fertilizer and trash as it flows into the streams and rivers that ultimately spill into our oceans. Needless to say, whatever limited water source is available needs to be conserved and maintained.

Diminising and deteriorating Boracay White Beach

4) No Garbage

It is disappointing to see a beautiful beach littered with plastic bags, soda cans and cigarette butts, but that’s the reality of many recreational beaches. Not only is trash an eyesore, but it also kills marine animals when they ingest it or become entangled.

Littering on the beach is just one part of the problem; people are also dumping trash directly into our waters. In many cases, ships are still illegally dumping into our oceans. “People throw trash overboard on ships and guess what? A lot of it washes up on the beach.”

Littering on the beach is just one part of the problem; people are also dumping trash directly into our waters.

What goes round, comes round. The garbage you throw, goes back to you.  Use less. Act more.

5) Beachscapes, marshlands and swamps

Tidal mudflats, marshlands, ponds, lagoons, swamps and upland forests all help guard our beaches in the face of severe storms. Thus, mangroves are being reforested in Coron, Palawan. They run parallel to the coast and provide a first line of defense for beaches when a storm hits. In addition to shielding the coast, many beach landscapes shelter a variety of fauna as well as flora that protects the beaches.

Our greatest concern for our beaches must go beyond the beyond beaches and must encompass, more holistically, the entire beachscapes, marshes, swamps and wetlands complex. They are all linked, and necessarily in the so called “balance of nature”.

Everything is connected, and it’s important to remember to protect the entire dynamic ecosystem to maintain hope and health along our beaches and coasts. Environmental awareness AND education is critical for all to find ways to go forward with development, while ensuring that the planet’s life support systems are protected, preserved, and conserved. This is the idea behind the concept of sustainable development especially in Philippine TOURISM where livelihoods and attractions are mainly based on the NATURAL RESOURCES and the ENVIRONMENT. It seems odd that people have to be taught how to correctly develop, but there are reasons to believe many people still do not understand the impact that human actions have had and continue to have on the environment and our one and only planet!

Good environmentalism
is good economics ~ B. Conable

According to Ocean Conservancy,  cleanups alone can’t solve the marine debris problem; we need to stop it at the source. “Armed with knowledge about the most prevalent components of marine debris, elected officials can make informed policy decisions, and community leaders can more effectively tailor and expand recycling and other waste reduction programs. Corporations can see the need for improved technology and reduced packaging, and individuals are inspired to properly dispose of trash to keep it out of the ocean.”

We know the problems...and we know the solution. Sustainable development. The issue is the political will ~ Tony Blair

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s not going to get better. It’s not. ~Dr. Seuss

The Coron Initiative , The Boracay Initiative & The Negros Occidental Initiative  are Sustainable Tourism, Conservation and Social Responsibility frameworks being implemented in Coron,Calamianes and West Visayas with institutional partners Zero Carbon Resorts, Green Hotels & The Clean Blue.

THE CLEAN BLUE ASIA is the new bespoke beach standards to help provide sustainable future to the industry – the public and private beach operators – to effectively manage the beaches of Asia – Pacific. Sustainability Capacity Building programs for destinations and communities and include Good Governance in the implementation of UNEP’s Manila Declaration,  DENR-EMB’s Integrated Coastal Management and the Coral Triangle Initiative to promote sustainable development and ensure the long term productivity of coastal resources while providing social services, increasing resilience and lessening poverty in coastal communities.

Education & training  can be customized for public and private stakeholders, local government units, private businesses and the local community in general.

For more information visit: or contact SSTDI.


2 Responses to “Five signs of a healthy beach”

  1. The most visited sea beaches are cleaned by the corresponding govt. authorities.But sometimes due to natural calamities it is covered by the wastes.Also there are number of factors for which it is not cleaned.The above analytical view is suitable for selecting the beach.

  2. Ya, must not overdevelop it like that what happened to Cayman Islands….Boracay should now be left alone to remain more like an island Paradise and not a city Island as like that what happened in many Caribbean regions…Also make the land available for sale who own hotels and property on the island and roll it out to the rest of the Philippines it be good for the economy as it would get more big investors and create huge tax revenues for the government and turn Philippines economy around. Many foreigners not interested to buy as they cant own the land they have the property on… it not happens in the Caribbean and even small islands have great productive economy…it could happen in all Philippines as well !!

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