One million lorries of sand a day are being extracted from the world’s oceans, posing a “significant” threat to marine life and coastal communities facing rising sea levels and storms, according to the first-ever global data platform to monitor the industry. From a report: The new data platform, developed by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), tracks and monitors dredging of sand in the marine environment by using the AIS (automatic identification systems) data from ships. Using data from 2012-19, Marine Sand Watch estimates the dredging industry is digging up 6bn tonnes of marine sand a year, a scale described as “alarming.” The rate of extraction is growing globally, Unep said, and is approaching the natural rate of replenishment of 10bn to 16bn tonnes of sand flowing into the sea from rivers and needed to maintain coastal structure and ecosystems.
The platform has identified “hotspots” including the North Sea, south-east Asia and the east coast of the United States as areas of concern. In many places where extraction is more intense, including parts of Asia, marine sand is being extracted well beyond the rate at which it is being replenished from rivers. […] Developed by GRID-Geneva, a centre for analytics within Unep, Marine Sand Watch has trained artificial intelligence to identify the movement of dredging vessels from its AIS data. It has data from 2012-19 from Global Fishing Watch, a company set up to track commercial fishing activities using AIS data from fishing vessels, but is working on more recent data.