Climate Change & New Development Pose Threat to Perth's Surf Breaks

Climate change threatens surfing in Perth

New development is threatening Australia's already-endangered surf breaks. An Ocean Reef Marina, full of shops, restaurants, and new homes, will destroy three surf breaks north of Perth City and damage Marmion Marine Park, a wildlife conservatory. Meanwhile, the community is fighting back. Local group Save Ocean Reef intends to mount a legal challenge to the project. So far, 2,500+ people have signed a petition to construct an artificial reef in the area.

Why This Matters

The triple-threat of developments, erosion, and climate change have harmed surf breaks across Australia. Wave breaks occur when sand builds up underwater, allowing swells to rise. Normally, currents bring sand towards land while wind blows it back out. But development keeps sand onshore, preventing waves from forming.

Intrusions into normal sand distribution have also forced beaches to erode away, affecting local beachgoers and tourists alike.

Preserving the Surfing Economy

Local state MP, Emily Hamilton, says the new Ocean Reef Marina development will create "thousands of jobs" and generate A$3bn for the Western Australia economy. But surfing is also key to the economy -- there are about 2.5 million recreational surfers in Australia and surf tourism created US$31.5 to $64.9bn globally before the pandemic.

Ana Manero, an environmental economist at Australian National University, told the Guardian: "Surfing brings a wealth of benefits, it makes places more desirable to live in, it is good for the local community, so the question is: when waves are impacted, how is that loss of value going to be accounted for?"

The University of Western Australia: Surf's ripe to determine the value of Western Australia's waves, May 13, 2021.