VANHOOREN, S., MAELFAIT, H and BELPAEME, K., 2011. Moving Towards an Ecological Management of the Beaches. In: Micallef, A. (ed.), MCRR3-2010 Conference Proceedings, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 61, pp. 81–86. Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy, ISSN 0749-0208.
The Belgian coast has an enormous touristic potential with over 16 million people visiting the coast for a day-trip and a turnover of more than 2500 Million. The ecological value of the beaches is at risk, caused by an extensive use of mechanical beach cleaners. Mechanical beach cleaners not only remove most of the man-produced waste, but unfortunately also take away organic material. Management for more sustainable beaches is necessary, because coastal communities spend yearly over 10.000 per km to keep the beaches clean. The Coordination Centre on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is working together with the coastal municipalities in Belgium to improve the ecological value of the beaches by raising awareness, preventing litter and economical costs benefit analysis of beach management. A lot of effort still needs to be done in raising awareness to different sectors as tourism and fishery. The Coordination Centre on ICZM in Belgium started in 2003 with a range of awareness raising activities. Examples are the yearly beach cleanings, competitions for schools or focussed campaigns e.g. on cigarette butts on the beach. Furthermore, coastal municipalities are closely involved in the sustainable beach cleaning, for example through training sessions to reduce the effects of beach cleaners, expert workshops, or pilot projects for manual beach cleaning. The results of the pilot projects, the beach cleaning actions and campaigns are carefully monitored. Cost benefit analyses on beach cleaning showed that manual beach cleaning is not only more sustainable, but also a lot cheaper and gives your coastal community a green image.