Unfortunately, everything by nature ends up there, no matter how far from the coast you may be, because streams flow into rivers and rivers into the sea, which makes it a very tough battle to win. But in the words of Sonia Gandhi, “Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” Let’s get started with the three main types of inputs of pollution into the ocean. Direct discharge of waste into the oceans, runoff into the waters due to rain, and pollutants released from the atmosphere. Find below a list of their devastating results.
When we burn fossil fuels, we don’t pollute just the air but the oceans, too. Indeed, today’s seas absorb as much as a quarter of all man-made carbon emissions, which changes the pH of surface waters and leads to acidification. This problem is rapidly worsening—oceans are now acidifying faster than they have in some 300 million years. This results in the extinction of reefs and shellfish since they require calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons which is no longer available in such acidic water. Bivalves are at the bottom of the food chain, so these effects ripple up to many fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. More-acidic waters also contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs and make it harder for some types of fish to sense predators and for others to hunt prey.
Trash in the Ocean
The majority of the garbage that enters the ocean each year is plastic—and it’s there to stay. That’s because unlike other trash, the single-use grocery bags, water bottles, drinking straws, and yoghurt containers, among eight million metric tons of the plastic items we toss (instead of recycling), won’t biodegrade. They can persist in the environment for a millennium, polluting our beaches, entangling marine life, and getting ingested by fish and seabirds. While some of this rubbish is dumped directly into the seas, an estimated 80 % of marine litter makes its way there gradually from land-based sources―including those far inland―via storm drains, sewers, and other routes. Oil from boats, aeroplanes, cars, trucks, and even lawn mowers is also swimming in ocean waters. Chemical discharges from factories, raw sewage overflow from water treatment systems, stormwater and agricultural runoff add other forms of marine-poisoning pollutants to the toxic brew.
The ocean is far from a “silent world.” Sound waves travel farther and faster in the sea’s dark depths than they do in the air, and many marine mammals like whales and dolphins, in addition to fish and other sea creatures, rely on communication by sound to find food, mate and navigate. But humans continue to generate underwater noise sources and therefore alter the underwater acoustic landscape, harming—and even killing—marine species worldwide. The noise created by commercial tanker and container ships that ply the seas at any given moment reaches nearly every corner of the ocean and shrinks the sensory range of marine wildlife massively. On top of that, inventions like high-intensity sonar used for example by the U.S. Navy causes some of the same effects and has been linked to mass whale strandings. Similar effects result in the hunt for offshore oil and gas. Ships equipped with high-powered air guns fire compressed air into the water every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks to months on end, which disrupt foraging, mating, and other vital behaviours of underwater species.
In addition to noise pollution, the oil and gas industry’s routine operations emit toxic by-products, release high levels of greenhouse gases and lead to thousands of spills annually. That oil lingers in our oceans for decades and does irreversible damage to delicate marine ecosystems. While a greater deal of our oceans’ pollution originates from industry, we as individuals can still have a great effect on helping turn things around.
Here a few easy steps you can take to help the oceans!
Mind your carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption
Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by travelling less by plane, leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home as well as at work.
Avoid plastic products
Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in non-disposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bags when shopping, and recycle whenever possible. Inform yourself about the hidden plastic in your day to day - like cigarette buds, one of the biggest micro-plastic pollutants in the world.
Make safe, sustainable seafood choices
Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.
Help take care of the beach
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups. You can even initiate them yourself with your friends and colleagues!
Don't purchase items that exploit marine life
Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewellery, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.
Be an ocean-friendly pet owner
Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Always pick up your dog poop since it carries lots of bacteria that are harmful to the groundwater. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.
Support organisations working to protect the ocean
Many institutes and organisations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organisation and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.
Influence change in your community
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others. Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter or when you notice people harming nature in any way. Share your knowledge with friends and family about the threatening situation and encourage them to join the challenge.
Travel the ocean responsibly
Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.
Use the right sunscreen
Recently, researchers have voiced concerns about the harmful effects of chemical sunscreens on human health and the environment. Specifically, two of the most popular ingredients in chemical sunscreens — oxybenzone and octinoxate — have been shown to cause significant damage to coral reefs. A recent study revealed that about 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in reefs worldwide, which can lead to bleaching, damaged DNA and abnormal skeleton growth in coral. The concern is so serious that some places ― including the state of Hawaii ― are now banning the sale and distribution of sunscreens with those chemicals. The best option at the moment for eco-conscious beachgoers is to swap out those chemical sunscreens for what are known as physical sunscreens — i.e. ones with mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that reflect the sun off your skin, without threatening the environment.
Avoid products containing microbeads
Tiny plastic particles, called “microbeads,” have become a growing source of ocean plastic pollution in recent years. Microbeads are found in some face scrubs, toothpastes and bodywashes. They easily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems and affect hundreds of marine species. Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products.
And last but not least support brands that produce responsibly!
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries in the world. Our Kikoi clothing is made with cotton from the "Cotton made in Africa" initiative, which has made it their goal to improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their commitment is based on the principle of helping people to help themselves through trade: African smallholders learn about efficient and environmentally friendly cultivation methods through expert agricultural training. Everything is then sown and manufactured in the small fairtrade factory Kiboko Leasure Wear in Nairobi, Kenya.
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Sources: nationalgeographic.com, worldoceansday.org, oceanicsociety.org, nrdc.org, huffpost.com