Tit for tat is a fair game. What goes around comes around. He that steals honey should beware of the sting. You receive as you give.
Perhaps this is the bluntest intro to an ocean pollution article. It’s just meant to awaken your conscious to the fact that man is solely responsible for ocean pollution – and most other forms of pollution. As a matter of fact, no animal in the world uses plastic bottles. No animal drinks through a straw. No animal cleans its ears with plastic cotton buds. It’s all man, man, man.
Humans have lately been on a serious mission to manufacture as many plastics as resources can allow. The current figure stands at well over 300 million tonnes per year. Most of this ends up in the oceans.
Man also pollutes the oceans by directly discharging raw sewage and greywater. The pollutants greatly destabilize the marine ecosystem. Finally, the repercussions are felt by humans. Let’s see how.
1. Ocean pollution infuses toxins into the food chain
Industrial wastewater, raw sewage, and plastics contain toxic contaminants. Household chemicals like bleach, drain cleaners, antifreeze, carpet cleaners, and air fresheners contain harmful chemicals like phthalates perchloroethylene, Triclosan, quaternary ammonium compounds, ammonia, chlorine, and sodium hydroxide. Pesticides and herbicides contain active ingredients and additives that are poisonous. Plastics are infused with toxic chemical additives to make them stronger and more durable. When all these toxins and heavy metals are washed into the ocean, fish and other marine animals have no choice but to ingest them into their bodies. Also, it has now been proved that certain bacteria in the seas have the ability to transform heavy metals like mercury into excessively toxic forms.
What follows next is that man eats the sea animals for food, along with most of the toxins and heavy metals. By and by, they accumulate in the body and reach toxic levels. The victims can experience a wide range of illnesses including cancer, heart failure, brain damage, kidney failure, skin irritation, eye sensitivity, pulmonary edema, coma, vomiting, blindness, neurological damage, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diarrhea, asthma, and lung damage, among many others.
2. Ocean pollution compromises air quality
Did you know that 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants? Now you know.
With plastic pollution in the oceans, the marine plants fail to get enough sunlight for their photosynthetic needs. In worst-case scenarios, millions of these plants die. That means that less oxygen is available for humans and other animals to inhale.
3. Ocean pollution reduces fishermen’s income
One obvious effect of ocean pollution on marine animals is death. It is estimated that nearly 100 million marine animals die each year due to plastic pollution in oceans.
Thus, with every dawn of the day, the number of fish available to fishermen significantly reduces. The less the fish, the less the sales, and the more the poverty bites. Many coastal communities around the world are already feeling the pinch.
By 2050, it is predicted that plastic debris in the ocean will outnumber fish by far. Will man catch plastics instead of fish?
4. Ocean pollution hurts the tourism industry
Littered beaches are an extreme eyesore, to say the least. No sane human being will dare bask in the beach sun while surrounded by heaps of plastic trash.
What used to be prime tourist destinations are now garbage pits. And remember there are countries which really depend on tourism. The most polluted beaches in the world include:
- Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, United States
- Guanabara Bay Beaches, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- El Gringo Beach, Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic
- Henderson Island, Pitcairn Island Group, British Overseas Territories
- Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India
- Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
- Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
- Poche Beach, California, United States
- Cheung Sha Beach, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
- Hann Bay, Dakar, Senegal
- Staithes beach, North Yorkshire, England
- Parlee Beach, New Brunswick, Canada
- Foreshores Beach, Sydney, Australia
5. Ocean Pollution leads to climate change
The oceans play a big part in the regulation of global climate. Oceans determine the intensity and duration of rainfall, droughts, floods, temperatures, etc. Additionally, oceans serve as the biggest store of carbon.
Human activities in the last few centuries have led to the infusion of over 30% of all CO2 produced into the ocean. Coupled with other greenhouses, the temperature of ocean water has increased by 90%. This implies a lot of energy is increasingly building up in the oceans.
This has led to adverse weather events like flash floods, prolonged droughts, rising sea levels, receding glaciers, and heatwaves. Humans go through untold suffering when the weather changes this way.
Ocean pollution is really bad for humans. The amount of trash, visible and invisible, lying in the ocean is quite alarming. Most of it will sadly be left to deteriorate by forces of nature – removing ocean trash is very challenging. The best thing to do now is to employ all possible interventions to ensure more pollutants do not reach our oceans.