Karnataka's coastline extends over a length of 320 kilometers. It is one of the most indented shoreline with numerous river mouths, lagoons, bays, creeks, promontories, cliffs, spits, sand dunes and long beaches. Unlike the east coast of India the coastal stretch of Karnataka has no major delta formations. The shelf off Karnataka has an average width of 80 kilometers and the depth of shelf break is between 90 and 120 meters. There are a few islands off the coast, the major group being St. Mary's Island, 4 kilometers off the coast near Malpe.
Fourteen rivers drain their waters into the shore waters of Karnataka. The important estuaries include the Netravati-Gurpur, Gangolli, Hangarkatta, Sharavthi, Aganashini, Gangavali and Kalinadi. Sand bars have developed in most of the estuaries. There are a number of barrier spits at Tannirbavi, Sasithitlu, Udyavara, Hoode, Hangarkatta and Kirimanjeswara formed due to migration of coastal rivers. There are also 90 beaches with varying aesthetic potential. Among these, the beaches at Someshwar-Ullal, Malpe, St. Mary's Island, Belekeri and Karwar are excellent with a potential for international tourism. Twenty-two beaches are classified as unfit for use due to coastal erosion, human settlements and activities linked to ports/harbors, industries and fisheries.
The inventory and evaluation of the status of resources and environmental quality enabled the identification of different hotspots with respect to major environmental issues of the ecozone.