How can one possibly think of life on earth if 71% of it wasn’t covered with water? The role that the oceans and marine life plays is crucial, yet ignored by humans. Why do humans take all the natural resources for granted? Humans have to be aware that there will be consequences to the problems they’re causing right now. It is quite embarrassing that only 10% of the land which is covered by humans is responsible for 70% of the mess on our planet’s surface? Yet, humans are still on their way to destroy the oceans.
The oceans consists everything, including tiny microscopic organisms to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the visible clear waters to the mysterious deep dark parts of the earth. The oceans are an important factor of earth’s ecosystems, as oceans are very source of food, life, and biodiversity. We can never truly understand all the benefits that the ocean provides us but we should know this for sure that without oceans, life on earth would have been next to impossible.
According to the Food and Agricultural organization of the United States (FAO), 56 million people globally are employed in fisheries and aquaculture currently. Fishing and farming support livelihoods on a huge scale, which is estimated to account for 12% of the world’s population and one of the many reasons humans should start thinking of protecting the marine life.
Oceans help with climate regulation. Oceans absorb a quarter of all the carbon dioxide that humans release into the atmosphere. Moreover, around 90% of the extra heat produced due to the global warming is absorbed in the oceans. Without this heating and cooling effects, the globe temperatures would have been unimaginable and life on earth would not be supported.
Oceans are an important source of food. Fish is on the menu every day for billions of people. It accounts for 16% of all animal protein consumed globally. The FAO lists sodium, calcium, magnesium, and iodine among others are some of the important nutrients found in seaweed. Iodine, which is an essential for human body is extracted from the oceans. The pressure created on all these resources such as seafood exportation and the environment is urging people to change their diets as the marine species are going extinct.
It is found that several marine invertebrates are the source of antibiotic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory substances. Many underwater bacteria and aquatic plants have medicinal properties. Thus, oceans are also a major factor positively affecting our health and well-being.
The aforementioned information highlights the benefits that is provided by oceans to human. However, various human activities have resulted oceans to be under threat. Around 80% of the pollution in the ocean comes from land and coastal zones and they end up being major pollutants. Coastal development for human entertainment and needs are diminishing and degrading important coastal marine ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reef, and others. There are various factors leading to marine pollution, which include:
- Dumping in the Oceans:
The waste generated from industries, ships, sewage plants are disposed directly into the ocean and this has polluted the marine life to a great extent. Millions and tons of hazardous waste is dumped directly into water bodies every year by the mining companies, globally. Furthermore, the marine life has been under threat due all the chemical products used on a daily basis such as cleaners that use various disinfectant liquids. Additionally, throwing away the flower garlands, leftover food or cans of bottles in the water bodies have led to such a great threat now.
- Surface Runoffs:
Surface runoff is the water from snow, rain and other sources that flows into the river. Surface runoff is the major source of ocean pollution as the waste comes from a nonpoint source such as sewages. Surface runoffs from agricultural lands and areas carry toxic chemicals and soil particles that are a mixture of carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, and minerals and this is a threat to the marine life on a large scale. The water filled with these chemicals lands in ocean resulting in hazardous algae blooms. The water pollution caused due to this threatens the life of many aquatic animals and humans through the food chain.
Dredging can be defined as the process of excavating waste from water environment. Currently, the industrial waste is increasing, dredging is an activity that enhances the marine life and helps transportation of goods and other ocean related activities. However, dredging has been a major factor of disturbance in the marine eco-system for several years. Dredging removes waste from under the water but it alters the pre-deposited composition of soil that results in destruction of marine organisms Moreover, dredging the deposited waste will lead to formation of new particles of contaminated material and will pollute the larger areas of water. Though there have been efforts taken to lessen the effects of dredging, however there are several instances about destruction of underwater lives.
- Ocean Acidification:
Ocean acidification is turning into a threat to both marine lives and humans. It is decreasing the pH level of the seawater caused by the carbon dioxide levels that are absorbed by the ocean from the atmosphere. Ocean acidification has adverse effects on humans and every marine animal. Various studies have shown that increased level of pH in water might lead to behavioural changes in marine animals putting them in life threatening risks.
- Rise in the level of seawater:
Global warming is significantly increasing the seawater level that threatens the marine life. The annual rate of seawater rise during the past two decades has been 0.13 inches per year, which is twice the speed of rising in the past 80 years. The rise in seawater level will lead to increase in destructive erosion, wetland flooding, and serious threat to various birds, animals, and plants.
- Waste produced from Ships:
Ships are essential and responsible for around 90% of the world trade. Besides the oil and gas pollutants, other waste and garbage generated in the ships poses a threat to the marine ecosystem. Moreover, the liquid or solid waste generated from the ships in the form of ballast water, grey water, leftover foods, packing material, paper waste, and others lead to extreme pollution of seawater, which is hazardous to the marine eco-system.
- Noise pollution generated from Ships:
The noise produced from the ship activities is harmful to marine organisms. The harmful effects on organisms due to the noise produced in the ships include changed diving patterns, haemorrhages, damage to internal organs, migration to new places, and panic responses to different sounds. The noise pollution in the ships is caused due to the sounds of the engines, entertainments in the cruise ships, motors, and others. Since the sound travels greater distances in water, the intensity of noise pollution is higher. The marine organisms are very sensitive to noise as they highly rely on underwater sounds for basic survival.
- Plastic pollution:
Where does one even begin when it comes to pollution caused due to plastic both on land and in water? Decades have passed since people were educated and warned about not polluting water and their surroundings and reduce the usage of plastic but a few people are really concerned about it. According to an article published in the Business Insider, around 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year and if retains, there is a possibility that by 2050 there would be more plastic in the water bodies than fishes. The harmful effects of plastic ranges wide. Millions of marine organisms are found dead on the shore every year and plastic being the cause of it. The plastic pollution has a large effect on marine animals, as the plastic either chokes them or disrupts any of their internal organs if consumed leading to their death. These marine creatures are meant to live their lives in the vast ocean and now because humans are done polluting the land, they’re on to polluting and disturbing the water life too.
- Oil Spills:
Oil spills are the major cause of the marine pollution. The world has witnessed several oil spills and the after effects of it and the destruction it causes. Marine animals breathe through the oxygen present in water. When the oil spill accidents take place, the oil blocks the oxygen pores and makes it difficult for the animals. Some marine animals travel to the surface to breathe but die eventually because the oil enters their gills and internal organs. The Keystone Pipeline spill that took place in 2019 in Walsh County of the United States was one of the largest and the most hazardous spills in the history. Thousands of marine animals were found dead on the shore, birds were found struggling to fly as the oil was all over their wings made it impossible to fly. Oil spill doesn’t threaten the aquatic life, it destroys the aquatic life.
It is high time that humans realize the importance of taking efforts to secure the marine life for a better future. It is time to educate everyone about the causes and the effects that lead to marine life destruction. If the ocean life does not exist in the upcoming years, we’d have to forget living a peaceful life on our planet!