The oceans are vast and deep bodies of saltwater covering approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. It was generally presumed because of its vastness that no matter how large the amount of waste and chemicals dumped into them, the consequences would be insignificant. Today, the once flourishing ocean ecosystem is on the verge of disintegration. The magnificent environment is under grave danger from human intrusion, with plastics set to surpass the fish population by 2050. The harsh and severe damage caused by chemical pollutants and tons of rubbish heaped in the oceans each year resulted in the decay of the ocean ecosystem and over 100 million marine lives lost each year. Planet Earth is in crisis!
Ocean Degradation Statistics
100 million deaths of marine life from plastic waste alone.
1 in 3 marine animals get entangle and strangle in waste, with 12-14,000 tons of plastic ingested yearly by North Pacific fish.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest trash site twice the surface area of Texas, exceeds sea life 6 to 1.
300 million tons of plastic equaling the weight of the entire human population is produced every year; 50% is designed to be used only once.
Approximately 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste are junked in the oceans of which 4 billion microfibers per km² stay below the surface and 269,000 tons float on the surface.
70% of trash descends into the ocean's ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on beach shores.
8.3 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans yearly of which 236,000 are ingestible microplastics that marine animals take in for food. There are no exact numbers on how many marine animals eat plastic or die as a result, but ingestion has been recorded in at least 331 species.
500-1000 years are needed to decompose plastic; presently. 79% is dispatched to landfills or oceans, only 9% is recycled, and 12% gets burned.
500 marine sites globally are now declared as dead zones, the same size as United Kingdom’s surface (245,000 km²).
80% of global marine pollution comes from agriculture surplus, untreated sewage, and nutrient and pesticide discharges.
90% of the worldwide ocean waste comes from 10 rivers alone
More than 100 nuclear blast tests occurred in the oceans from 1950-1998.
Flavors of Marine Pollution
Marine pollution consists of many types of pollutants that damage the marine ecosystem, including chemical, light, noise, and plastic pollution.
Chemical pollution is the launching of man-made and harmful contaminants like fertilizers, pesticides, oil, detergents, sewage, and industrial chemicals. Chemical pollutants drain into the oceans affect marine wildlife. PFAS, a chemical added in many household products accumulates in the blood of humans and marine animals. Pharmaceutical not fully processed by humans also end up in aquatic food webs.
Scientists found that artificial light at night affects marine animals. Light pollution infiltrates the water and disrupts the circadian rhythms affecting reproduction, feeding, and migration of marine animals.
Unnatural noises disrupt communication, interrupt migration, hunting, and breeding patterns of many marine animals.
Plastic pollution comes from persistent dumping of single-use plastics mistakenly consumed by marine animals. Plastic particles spin throughout the water system and are eaten by marine animals causing their deaths. Dead marine animals washed off ashore contain plastic inside their stomachs.
The ‘Fix” to Marine Degradation
Beyond establishing international treaties, regulating the fishing industry, and reducing pollution, countries have to alleviate climate change, which is posing the biggest long-term risk. Falling short could be disastrous. The following are some recommendations to reduce marine devastation:
• Reduce carbon footprint by adopting measures like walking, riding a bike or public transportation, turning off lights when leaving a room, minimizing the use of a thermostat, and buying and eating sustainable seafood instead of beef or pork.
• Countries should expand marine protected areas and establish marine parks to protect biodiversity. The Arctic is rapidly becoming accessible to fishing vessels. The proposed marine sanctuary currently in progress should be vigorously pursued.
• National laws and international agreements to curb the dumping of plastic and other forms of pollutants into the waters should be rallied on and enforced.
• Encourage and increase more countries (from existing 60 countries) to take action in reducing plastic production. Urge companies to provide consumers with plastic-free alternatives and say no to single-use plastics.
• Promote and encourage recycling and reuse to minimize plastic pollution.
• Dampen unnecessary lights at night to limit light pollution.
• Advocate responsible chemical-use through consumer and political actions
• Reduce destructive fishing practices such as trawling
• Minimize the use of military sonar that can harm marine mammals.
The oceans are home to important species and ecosystems people rely on for food, livelihoods, climate regulation and more. They need our help. Let us all pitch in to protect and save them. Let us all make a big difference.