Oceans constitute around 70% of the surface of earth and are an important part of the ecological cycle. Oceans are vast water resources and are home to millions of plants and organisms. Unabated human-activity has resulted in degradation of marine life and there are several species of organisms that are on the verge of extinction. The harmful and toxic substances that come out of industries are dumped into oceans, putting plants and animals to grave risks. To assume that ocean pollution can just impact marine life would be a big folly on our part as oceans are an important part of the natural cycle and any disturbance with this can prove disastrous for the mankind.
Causes of Ocean Pollution
Marine transportation and oil spills: Oil spills are a major cause of ocean pollution. Oil is spilled mostly from oil containers which are being transported from one place to another on ships. Oil spills can also be a result of leakage from aircraft flying over the ocean.
Garbage and sewage: The garbage and sewage that is dumped by ships deliberately into the oceans is one of the biggest contributors to ocean pollution. Garbage and sewage contains toxic chemicals and these can stay in the ocean for a long time.
Acid rain: Acid rain is not a natural phenomenon but a result of industrial and automobile pollution. Poisonous gases from these sources are released in the environment which when combined with rainwater forms acid rain. Acid rain facilitates the transfer of harmful gases to oceans.
Impact of Ocean Pollution on Marine Life
- Like humans, marine organisms also need oxygen for their survival. Oxygen is present in the dissolved form in the oceans and the toxic substances have an ability to absorb this dissolved oxygen, thus resulting in decrease in the oxygen levels inside the oceans. Pollutants also stimulate the growth of certain organisms that are harmful for marine organisms.
- The contamination of ocean water with poisonous chemicals and toxins has already killed hundreds of thousands of marine organisms and many more are under the threat of extinction. The chemicals also have far-reaching effects as these interfere with the genetic make-up of organisms and cause various physiological changes. Because of this continuous exposure to chemicals and toxins, around two-thirds of marine life has been declared as 'threatened species'. The harmful pollutants and chemicals have led to the decrease in the population of fish, which in turn has impacted gulls and pelicans which are dependent on fish for their food. This effect is not limited to marine life only as eating a fish which has been contaminated by pollutants can lead to several diseases in humans.
- Plastic which is dumped in oceans on a large-scale causes a lot of deaths as it leads to suffocation. Many turtles die because they are not able to distinguish between jellyfish and plastic and end up consuming it which leads to a slow painful death due to choking.
- The pollutants deposited in oceans prevent sunlight from reaching the surface of the sea and this interferes with photosynthesis which is extremely important not only for marine life but also for maintaining the ecological balance.
- Apart from causing innumerable deaths, ocean pollution also leads to a host of skin, respiratory and reproductive diseases in marine organisms. The chemicals that are dumped in the ocean water are so poisonous that many organisms lose their vision on being exposed to these chemicals.
Nature has shown us time and again that any sort of interference with its cycle can have disastrous consequences on the life on this planet. The efforts that have been taken to eradicate air and land pollution have proven beneficial, and it is important that similar measures are employed to reduce the levels of ocean pollution. The effects of ocean pollution on marine life are far-reaching and humans should not consider themselves immune to the impact that it will have on them.