Ocean Pollution

Our daily activities have been polluting the ocean for centuries, this problem was magnified after World War II. Industries started manufacturing and synthesizing materials that were very harmful to the environment such as plastic products and inorganic pesticides. Oceans are mainly affected when humans are irresponsibly spreading harmful toxic substances such as oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural waste as well as chemical particles into the ocean. Another human action that is harming the marine life is mining for materials such as copper and gold. This causes water contamination and affects the life cycles of numerous marine organisms.

Pollution has so many effects on the ocean starting from a decreasing in biodiversity to behavioral changes, as well as increasing rates of cancer in animals as well as in humans. For example, oil spills could get on the gills and feathers of marine animals and make it hard for the animals to move or fly. Long term exposure can damage the animal’s eyes, lungs, skin and eventually lead to death. Another problem with oil spills is that oil has a lower density than the water thus it floats on the surface of water preventing the sunlight from reaching all the way to the marine plants. Therefore these plants cannot perform photosynthesis leading to lower oxygen levels in the ocean as well as the death of these plants since they cannot make their food anymore.

The main pollution problem in our ocean is plastic…. It’s is everywhere! The minimum time required for the plastic to degrade is 450 years which makes it stay in oceans for a very long time.  Thousands of animals end up mistaking plastic for food or the animals get tangled in it for rest of their life. When animals mistake the plastic for food and consume it, it leads to slow death caused either by the instant damage to their guts or the long term damage by taking up the volume of their stomach leading to the starvation of the animal. About 60% of the seabirds have eaten plastic particles, about 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic is ingested by the North Pacific fish, and 52% of sea turtles worldwide have eaten plastic.

These numbers are estimated to increase if humans continue with the same harmful habits.

Ways to decrease plastic ocean pollution numbers can start from your home:

  • Refusing to use single-use plastic bags, instead use biodegradable shopping bags.
  • Using reusable bottles for any beverages instead of using single-use plastic bottles.
  • Avoid excessive packaging products and bring your own reusable containers/bags when shopping.
  • When purchasing or finding a six-pack holder make sure to cut each one and properly dispose of it. These six-pack rings end up in the ocean choking wildlife animals like sea turtles.
  • Make sure all plastic products are properly recycled.
  • Talk and advise your family and friends about the importance of these steps to protect our ocean’s wildlife.

Other ways to protect our oceans is by getting out there and volunteering with local and international environmental organizations to go and clean up the oceans and beaches.

by Ifrodet Giorgees

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