The vast coastal and marine resources that occur along the southern edge of Bangladesh make it one of the most productive areas of the world. However, due to growing anthropogenic impacts, this area is under considerable environmental pressure from both physical and chemical stress factors. Ship breaking, or the dismantling and demolition of out-of-service ocean-going vessels, has become increasingly common in many coastal areas. To investigate the extent of ship breaking activities in Bangladesh along the Sitakunda coast, various spatial and non-spatial data were obtained, including remote sensing imagery, statistical records and published reports. Impacts to coastal and marine life were documented. Available data show that ship breaking activities cause significant physical disturbance and release toxic materials into the environment, resulting in adverse effects to numerous marine taxonomic groups such as fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, plants, phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthic invertebrates. Landsat imagery illustrates that the negatively impacted coastal area has grown 308.7 % from 367 ha in 1989 to 1,133 ha in 2010. Physicochemical and biological properties of coastal soil and water indicate substantially elevated pollution that poses a risk of local, regional and even global contamination through sea water and atmospheric transport. While damage to the coastal environment of Bangladesh is a recognized hazard that must be addressed, the economic benefits of ship breaking through job creation and fulfilling the domestic demand for recycled steel must be considered. Rather than an outright ban on beach breaking of ships, the enterprise must be recognized as a true and influential industry that should be held responsible for developing an economically viable and environmentally proactive growth strategy. Evolution of the industry toward a sustainable system can be aided through reasonable and enforceable legislative and judicial action that takes a balanced approach, but does not diminish the value of coastal conservation.