Marine Pollution

Marine Pollution

Water Pollution

What is marine pollution?

This is when harmful agents such as chemical and trash, mostly from land sources are washed or blown into the sea; industrial, agricultural and residential waste, noise, spread of invasive organisms have harmful impact on ocean life. Marine pollution causes environmental damage, adverse health of marine life and negative economic impact.

Although the larger percentage of marine pollution comes from land, air pollution also contributes through the carrying of iron, carbonic acid, nitrogen, pesticides and dust particles into the ocean.

While most of marine pollutants are usually large and obvious to the eye, the pollutants that cause the most harm are the ones that can’t be seen; pollutants often come from nonpoint sources such as agricultural runoff, windblown debris and dust, the pollution can be aggravated by physical phenomena like “Langmuir circulation” and nutrient pollution: this is a form of pollution where a body of water is contaminated by the excess input of nutrients.

Most of marine pollution is manmade i.e. caused by man: wrong disposal of plastics and other waters, discharge from pesticides and industrial chemicals, shipping accidents etc. are all sources of marine pollution caused by human activities.

Marine Pollution

Plastics are the biggest manmade marine pollutants, with almost 8 million tons of plastic waste dumped into the ocean every year. Plastic waste like bottles, cups, straws etc. make their way to the sea where they break sown into smaller pieces, becoming micro plastic; plastic waste chokes wildlife, almost 1 million sea beds and a large number of sea turtles are killed by plastic debris in their digestives tracts, other marine animals get tangled and incapacitated by used fishing lines and plastic bags.

How does marine pollution affect the marine environment?

Marine pollution impacts marine life in several negative ways, for example when an oil spill happens, the oil can get stuck to the gills of fishes and feathers of sea birds, making movement and feeding extremely difficult- this can cause cancer, reproductive system failure, behavioral changes and death. Oil floats on the surface of water and prevents marine plants from getting sunlight to carry out photosynthesis.

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The presence of debris in the ocean depletes the oxygen level in water, most ocean debris are not biodegradable and can remain in the ocean for years and as  it degrades it uses up oxygen, this reduces oxygen levels and brings down the survival chances of animals like whales, turtles, sharks, dolphins etc.

Poisonous chemicals from industrial and agricultural wastes can accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, leading to failure in their reproductive system; also chemicals washed into rivers are carried into the ocean where they sink to the bottom, they are ingested by small animals who are I turn eaten by larger animals spreading the hazardous chemicals through the food chain. These animals containing the harmful chemicals are eaten by humans, the toxins from these contaminated animals can cause cancer, birth defects or long term health problems.

What are the types of marine pollution?

Chemical pollution: chemicals pollution come from common man made pollutants that contaminate the oceans include pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, detergents, oil, industrial chemicals etc. these pollutants are usually released far away from coastlines but are carried to the ocean through streams and rivers, e.g. nutrient packed fertilizers, the excess nutrients causes overgrowth of algae that depletes oxygen level of water leaving dead zones where only few marine organisms can live. Some chemical like DDT spreads throughout the food chain.

Light pollution

Artificial lights at night impacts marine life negatively. Artificial light penetrates underwater at night, creating a very different world for fish living I shallow reefs near urban environments, it disrupts the normal cues of circadian rhythms like timing of migration, reproduction, feeding; it  also makes it easier for predators to find smaller fish prey and can affect breeding in reef fish.

Noise pollution

The increase of loud and persistent ship sounds, use of sonar devices, oil rigs disrupts natural noises in the marine environment. For marine animals like whales and dolphins, who use sound to communicate and see underwater, unnatural noises interrupt communication, disrupt, migration, hunting and reproduction patterns.

Plastic pollution

Plastic enter the ocean through run off and purposeful dumping, especially single use plastic thrown into the trash or directly into the ocean; these items are often consumed accidentally by marine animals. Plastic bags resemble jellyfish, a common food for sea turtles, while some seabirds eat plastic because it releases a chemical that makes it smell like its natural food.

What are the sources of marine pollution?

  1.  Sewage
  2. Toxic Chemicals From Industries

Hazardous chemicals poison wildlife, also they raise the temperature of the ocean, a phenomenon known as thermal pollution. Animals and plants that cannot survive at higher temperatures eventually perish.

  • Land Runoff

As excess water runs off land into water bodies, often this water picks up man-made, harmful contaminants that pollute the ocean, including fertilizers, petroleum, pesticides and other forms of soil contaminants.

  • Large Scale Oil Spills

Crude oil lasts for years in the sea and is extremely toxic to marine life, it suffocates marine animals once it entraps them. It is also extremely difficult to clean up, unfortunately, meaning that when it is split,

  • Ocean Mining

     Another source of ocean pollution. Ocean mining sites drilling for silver, gold, copper, cobalt, and zinc create sulfide deposits up to three and a half thousand meters down into the ocean. Deep-sea mining causes damage to the lowest levels of the ocean and increases the toxicity of the region.

  • Littering

Mainly from the atmosphere, inland objects are blown y the wind over large distances into the ocean. These objects include natural thongs like dust and sand and manmade objects like debris and trash.

Where is ocean pollution the worst?

The most heavily polluted ocean areas according to IB Times UK include:

  1. Atlantic Ocean – Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

The dead zone here is one of the largest in the world.

Its waters are full of nitrogen and phosphorous that come from major farming states in the USA.

The presence of these chemicals frequently turns Gulf of Mexico waters hypoxic, or low in oxygen.

Hypoxia kills fish in huge numbers.

  • Atlantic Ocean – North Atlantic Garbage Patch

This patch was first documented in 1972 and is entirely composed of man-made marine debris floating in the North Atlantic Gyre.

  • Pacific Ocean – Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Located in the northern Pacific Ocean, near the North Pacific Gyre, this collection of marine debris is largely composed of plastic and chemical sludge.

This patch is believed to have formed gradually as marine pollution was brought together by ocean currents.

  • Mediterranean Sea

  • Caribbean Sea

Why is ocean pollution bad for humans?

The oceans are very important to the existence of life on earth, it provides over 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe and over 97 percent of the world’s water supply.

Toxic chemicals have either been dumped on purpose from industrial sources or naturally flow off land and directly into our rivers and streams, which eventually end up in our oceans.

Chemicals such as oil, mercury, lead, pesticides, and other heavy metals can all be found within the ocean and can contaminate water supplies and our food chain by affecting the marine life involved. If humans are exposed to these toxic chemicals for long periods of time, then this can result in dangerous health problems, which include hormonal issues, reproductive issues, and damage to our nervous systems and kidneys.

Ocean pollution facts

  1. The great Pacific Garbage Patch contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash covers an area twice the size of Texas.
  2. China and Indonesia account for one third of plastic pollution.
  3. Most ocean trash sits on the bottom.70% of ocean garbage sinks to the seafloor so we might never be able to clean it up.
  4. The 5 most common items found in coastal cleanups around the world are all single-use plastics.
  5. 80% of trash in the ocean is from land-based sources.
  6.  Plastics cause more than 80% of the negative effects on animals associated with ocean trash.
  7. Ocean pollutions kills more than one million Sea birds each year.
  8. There are about 500 dead zones in the ocean, which covers a similar size to the United Kingdom.
  9. Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
  10. There’s enough plastic in the ocean to circle the Earth 400 times.

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