Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Marine pollution has been a problem our world has faced for some time now. The reports of trash and garbage rising in our oceans started in the 1960s and 1970s. Countless such reports continue to come in from all over the world. Aquatic creatures have been losing their homes and lives because of human carelessness. Yet, there haven’t been many consultations and discussions about what we as a community can do about this issue.
Marine pollution, otherwise known as ocean pollution, is the act of chemicals and trash being dumped or blown into the ocean and in bays. Marine Pollution is caused mostly by human activities, such as the use of pesticides for farms or littering instead of throwing waste in a trash can. An author from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) writes, “Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land” (NOAA). The two most important types of marine pollution that we produce are chemical pollution and marine trash.
Chemical pollution or nonpoint source pollution is the addition of harmful contaminants in an ecosystem. Agriculture plays a big role when it comes to this issue. Pesticides and fertilizers are often used in farms and ranches for crops and livestock to ensure their health. These substances include toxic chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus, which become runoff into bays and oceans. The nitrogen and phosphorus promote algal blooms in the sea. Algal blooms occur when an immense amount of algae starts growing in the sea. They affect aquatic life by making the water toxic and depleting the amount of oxygen in the water, eventually killing most of the sea life.
Marine trash is the accumulation of human waste over time as it gets dumped into the sea. It finds its way there by littering, heavy storms and winds, and poor waste management. 80% of all the trash comes from the land and land activities and most of it plastic. It ranges from bottles to bags to wrappers. An author from the Ocean Conservancy writes, “Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments” (Ocean Conservancy). This is more problematic and a much bigger issue than chemical pollution because plastic takes more time to decompose - over 1,000 years to fully decompose. So, with plastic floating around in our sea, animals misinterpret it for food and eat it or get stuck in it. The plastic becomes a fatal killer and the sea life’s fossils and skeletons are stuck with it in their bodies or on their bodies for the next 1,000 years.
So even though our damage has already been done, with 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in the ocean, we can still prevent this colossal number from increasing. First, we can start off by not littering and cutting down what you throw away. Since plastic cannot decompose, it is a major problem for sea life. If you have a piece of trash and you are near the bay or ocean, please try your best to find a trash can to dispose of it. Another thing we can start doing is involving ourselves in beach cleanups. There are hundreds of organizations committed to helping remove trash near our coastlines and helping out will get us closer to our goal of removing the majority of trash in our oceans. Lastly, start respecting your habitats more. Our environment is more important than you might think it is. You can do this by fishing responsibly when on the water or practicing safe boating in order to not harm any marine life. Our actions have many consequences, and everyone pitching in will help to make our oceans a better and safer place.