Pollution and environment are the two main hot topics lately since there has been an increase in awareness about global issues faced. Pollution directly affects our lives, and ironically pollution is caused by our activities globally. The three main types of pollutions include air pollution, ocean pollution, and land pollution. Many people think that land pollution is the most visible one, but recently we’ve seen air pollution clearly in the form of smog that has covered most of our metropolitan cities, all over the globe. Another significant pollution is ocean pollution, and in this article, we will discuss in detail about ocean pollution, its types, causes, and how it’s directly affecting the oceans and humans.
What are the Types of Ocean Pollution and What Causes Ocean Pollution?
The ocean is home to hundreds and thousands of different species of fish and other marine animals, many of which are still unknown to humans. According to research, 100,000,000 metric tons of plastic waste has been dumped in the ocean and is suffocating marine life. Some of the significant types of ocean pollution and their causes are as follows:
Oil is one of the significant causes of pollution in the ocean, though oil is drilled out from under the water, it still causes significant pollution in oceans. Oil leaks into the ocean continuously; oil from the cars, machines, and industries is washed off by rain and later ends up into the ocean. Another primary reason for oil pollution in the oceans is the spillage of oil in the oceans by massive oil carriers. There is no significant way of removing oil from the ocean once spillage occurs, and according to experts, about 10% of the oil pollution in the ocean is caused by these spillages.
45% of this oil comes from industries and oil rigs. This also includes the cooking oils that go into the drain in every home. 35% of this comes from the shipping industry itself. The oil that is spilled or discharged into the ocean causes an imbalance in the pH level of the water, which is very harmful to marine life. It also forms a film over the water, which then also affects anything it touches.
According to research, about 80% of ocean pollution is because of the land, and 20% is because of the ocean itself. We have seen in major metropolitan cities that the waste collected from the cities is later dumped into the ocean, processed or unprocessed. 60 to 75% of this waste is plastic, and as we know, plastic does not decompose, and this has been one of the leading causes behind the death of marine animals. Industrial waste is also dumped into the ocean in many parts of the world. Until the 1970s, it was legal to dump industrial as well as nuclear waste into the oceans, which has led to serious consequences.
Sewers are another major cause of ocean pollution. Human wastewater from the toilets and the kitchens is dumped into the ocean bodies; this disrupts the balance of the ocean. The detergent and soap present in the water are harmful to the water animals and can prove to be poisonous. If the sewage is disposed of, unprocessed into the ocean, the bacteria and microbes present within can infect the marine life. We also need to remember that the fish in the ocean serves as a food source to humans, and any pathogens entering their bodies would ultimately transfer into ours.
Which animals are most affected by ocean pollution?
All animals present in the ocean are affected by water pollution, but there are a few that are profoundly affected. According to estimates, around 100 million sea animals die because of marine pollution each year. The list of animals is as follows:
- Sea Turtles
According to research, presently, 50% of the sea turtle’s deaths are caused by plastic that they swallow in the ocean.
Fish are the most affected by ocean pollution since the water passes through their gills; even the minutest of the pollutants affect them. Plastic is, of course, the leading cause of death in fish. According to a report, fishes in the Northern Pacific Ocean ingest about 14,000 tons of plastic yearly.
In the year 2010, 37 dead Grey Whales washed ashore, and all of them had plastic, and duct tapes in their systems, which caused their death.
- Sea Lions
According to the Eight-Year Study, approximately 388 sea lions died because they were entangled in plastic debris like packaging bands and rubber bands.
Dolphins are, similarly, affected like the whales, with water pollution. Change in oxygen levels makes it difficult for them to breathe. It also impairs their immunity; it makes it hard for the mammal to fight infections.
About 98% of albatross birds ingest some kind of plastic that is found in the oceans. This upsets their digestion processes and can also puncture internal organs.
What are the Sources of Ocean Pollution? What is the Biggest Source of Pollution in the Ocean?
Several sources can lead to ocean pollution, but the primary source of ocean pollution remains the land itself. Our activities on land directly impact life in the ocean, our activities do not only disrupt our ecosystem but beyond ours as well. Some of the significant sources of ocean pollution are:
60 to 80% of the ocean debris consists of plastic. The abundant production of plastic means that we have to find a way to dispose it as well, and for countries, the easiest way is to dump it in the ocean. It is believed that all the plastic that was produced after the mid-20th century is still present in the environment in one form or another.
80% of ocean pollution comes from land sources like drainage, sewerage, industrial dumping, etc. 20% of it comes from the ocean itself like oil spills, oil drilling, etc.
- Human-made Items
Human-made debris is still found in the ocean in an unimaginable amount, and the sad part is that no one is accountable for it. A large amount of debris is dumped into the ocean every day, and sometimes it is completely unprocessed.
- Other Items
Other items like cigarette butts, packets, water bottles, diapers, and other miscellaneous items are also significant sources of ocean pollution.
By far, the most significant sources of ocean pollution are land and plastic.
How Many Marine Dumps are there in the world; what Impacts have they Caused, and what can Humans Do?
The ocean has become one of the greatest dumps where the countries are continuously dumping their waste and are polluting the ocean to an unimaginable extent. According to research, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are the top five countries that contribute to plastic waste in global waters. The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest waste dump; over 100,000 tons of debris is floating on its surface. About 90% of this debris is plastic, and according to a discoverer Captain Charles Moore, there is a Pacific Garbage Patch. This patch is twice the size of Texas. The Atlantic Ocean is similarly polluted, and floating islands of waste can be seen that weigh around 100 million tons; 80% of this marine plastic comes from the land.
The world approximately produces 380 million tons of plastic every year, and out of which 3% ends up in the ocean as global plastic waste. Most of our oceans are polluted with waste as several polluted rivers fall into the ocean. Marine dumping has slowly and gradually impacted the ecosystem. It has destroyed and degraded essential habitats that are responsible for nurturing aquatic species. Several species have gone extinct for long, leaving no trace behind. Marine mammals like Whales and Dolphins are also severely impacted as the plastic particles and other debris affect them. About 12,000 beaches in the United States have been closed down due to contamination and pollution in the water. Humans have made it harmful to swim in the ocean because of their own actions.
There is a long list of things humans can do to reduce marine pollution. As they say, small actions go a long way; only by reducing the amount of plastic we use in our lives can lessen ocean pollution. Use glass bottles and metal bottles instead of plastic bottles so that one-time-use plastic can be discouraged. The use of thermopore plates and cups should also be limited. Plastic bags are another source of pollution on the land as well as in the ocean. In recent years, we have seen the use of biodegradable bags, paper bags, and fabric bags used instead of plastic bags. The end goal is to limit the use of plastic that we use in our daily lives, and small changes in lifestyle can make that happen.
How does ocean pollution affect humans？
Ocean pollution also directly affects humans. Humans stand at the top of the food chain, and whatever they dump in the ocean will come back to them, served on a plate. All the seafood that we consume has been part of the ocean, and that is why all the plastic, oil, and debris have become part of that seafood as well. 97% of the earth’s water supply comes from the ocean, and the marine plants produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe. When we contaminate one ecosystem, we indirectly disrupt the functioning of all the ecosystems as well.
The Importance of the Ocean
An ocean is the largest water body on the earth and is responsible for many benefits. The ocean is responsible for producing 50% of the world’s oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. The ocean winds also transport heat from the equator’s lower latitude to higher latitude, thus regulating the climate and maintaining weather patterns. 70% of life on earth depends on the ocean, and by disrupting the ocean, we are upsetting the life on land.
The condition of the oceans is deteriorating with each passing day, while we wait for the governments and world organizations to come up with policies. The fate of the ocean is in our own hands. Only by changing our behaviors, controlling the consumption of plastics, supporting the work of organizations that are dedicated to improving life in the ocean, we can make an impact.