The oceans of the Earth are massive, so is the amount of pollution that is entering the waters of the seas through both man-made and natural sources. This marine pollution is affecting the entire ecosystem of the ocean across the globe. According to the report by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, most of the pollutants that are present in the waters are from the land. Aquatic animals consume these pollutants which in turn are consumed by humans as well.
The overabundance of marine pollution comes with harmful consequences. Right now one of the major causes of concern is the excess quantity of phosphorus and nitrogen. Plants require low quantities of these gases to grow in the water. But a high concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen leads to the growth of algal blooms, which in turn overrun the entire ecosystem. Once the algal blooms begin to decompose and sink to the bottom of the ocean, the amount of oxygen is decreased. As a result of which marine life starts to die because of suffocation. This creates a dead zone in the sea.
Debris present in the water is also chemically hazardous. It affects all types of marine life. Discarded plastics and metal cans, fishing gear, parts of wrecked ships, broken glass can entangle any type of aquatic animals, choke or starve them to death. Once the smaller organism of the ecosystem consumes any of the above debris, the predators in the higher position of the food chain eat them as well. Garbage, plastics, chemicals and heavy metals again make their way up to the people when they eat them in the form of seafood.
Effects of Ocean Pollution on the Marine Life
Some of the adverse effects that the marine lives are facing due to ocean pollution are as follows.
- Oil due to spill or intentional dumping into the ocean covered the features of the birds which make it difficult to move or fly.
- Oil is also consumed by the fish which block the gills of the fish, ultimately leading to choking
- When Human beings consume contaminated seafood, they suffer from skin problems, liver and lung damage due to oil deposits in the marine animals
- Poisonous agricultural and industrial chemicals lead to the failure of the reproductive system. If it continues like this, then many endangered species will be wiped out.
- PFAS is a chemical that is included in many household products. Research shows that the blood of many marine mammals contains this chemical.
- Pharmaceuticals that are consumed by humans by not properly ingested also enter the waters of the ocean in the form of wastes.
- High wattage of lights from the ships is causing marine pollution. Light disturbs the circadian rhythms due to which aquatic species are changing their time of reproduction, migration, and feed. Light can also affect the breeding of the reef fish.
- The loud sounds from the ships, oil rigs, and sonar devices interrupt the natural sound of the aquatic environment. Whales and dolphins use echolocation that reflects their sound from the surface into the water that assists them to see in the water. Thus unnatural loud noises disrupt their way of communication.
- Plastic bags dumped in the ocean resemble jellyfish which is a primary food for the sea turtles. They consume the bags which block their digestive tract leading to starvation.
- Many seabirds eat plastic mistaking them as their natural food due to the smell of the chemicals released from them.
- Scientists have found fibers of plastic in the corals of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Plastics are also damaging the breeding grounds. Turtles lay their eggs in the sand and incubate till they are ready to hatch. The presence of plastics in the beaches is affecting the temperature which is leading to the less hatching of eggs.
- Hawaiian Monk seals are one of the most endangered species of seals. The major threat of marine pollution to them is the entanglement of the fishing gears which can damage the ability to move or infection in the tangled area.
- Plastic pollution increases the growth of pathogens that is killing thousands of aquatic animals every year.
- According to a study by scientists in Brazil, it has been found out that almost 100% of the turtles have plastics in them.
- Eutrophication in the ocean has led to the enhanced growth of benthos and phytoplanktons. Due to eutrophication, some species of fish are found to be changing their movement, feeding habits, and even reproduction system.
- More than 100 million aquatic species die from plastic waste every year. 100,000 marine animals die due to entanglement in plastic bags or nest each year.
- 12000 to 14000 tons of plastics are ingested by mistake as their food by the fish of the North Pacific Ocean annually.
- There are a total of 5 ocean gyres where the wildlife is harmfully feeding on the plastics.
- Since 1984, the production of algal blooms has tripled, thus closing many famous beaches and killing fish.
- There are more than 100 alien species in the Baltic Sea which is affecting marine life.
Despite the damaging effects of marine pollution, about 8 million metric tons of plastic or products made of plastics are dumped in the ocean each year. According to a report by EcoWatch, about 12.7 million metric tons of plastic has entered the ocean in the year 2010. Plastics are mostly dumped from those countries that have poor or no waste management and a high population.
Improved infrastructure and regulations and policy on the usage of plastics can reduce the amount of marine pollution. But changing the habits and spreading awareness among the industries, organizations and common people will address the problem of marine pollution. Banning of the usage, reuse, and recycling of plastics can reduce plastic pollution.