Ocean pollution, also referred to as marine pollution, is pollution of the ocean water caused due to dumping of industrial, agricultural, or residential waste in it. Oceans are large water bodies, which are home to millions of marine plants and animals. Pollution-induced habitat destruction is a serious threat to the basic survival of these marine species.
Most of the causes of pollution in this case are land-based, wherein human interference is involved either directly or indirectly. It's not like we humans don't get affected by it. We do, but then it's also worth noting that we have a dominant role to play in polluting these oceans.
What Causes Ocean Pollution?
Discharge of crude oil, accidental or deliberate, is one of the major causes of pollution in the oceans. This happens when the ships plying through these oceans discharge their waste in them. Statistics put forth a gruesome picture of the hazard the marine life is facing. This problem is faced by all the oceans of the world. Transportation of vessels carrying various ores can also lead to pollution of the water body when ore sediments are accidentally dumped in it.
Statistics reveal that approximately 45 percent of ocean water pollution is caused by marine transportation, while 32 percent is caused by loading, discharging, and flushing of oil tankers. On the other hand, pollution caused by natural seeps, which is the major natural cause, accounts for 8 percent of the total pollution. Oil spills, which are estimated to be close to around 900,000 metric tons annually, are also responsible for the pollution of ocean water.
Another important cause of marine pollution is industrial waste dumping. This toxic waste contains various contaminants, including mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). Garbage dumping, i.e., channeling of human waste into the ocean as a method of garbage treatment, is yet another major cause which can be attributed to sheer negligence on our part.
It doesn't just end there. The polluted air, containing gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, also pollutes the ocean water, as these contaminants dissolve in the rainwater and eventually reach the oceans.
Its Effects on the Environment
Oil spilled in oceans is disastrous for all forms of marine life including coral reefs, fish, and marine plants. Coral reefs are in fact the worst affected, as excessive pollution and global warming threaten to wipe them off the planet in the next few years.
Ocean pollution leads to depletion of oxygen dissolved in water, which, in turn, makes it difficult for various sea animals to breathe. Though indirectly, humans are also affected by pollution of ocean water, particularly because marine life is a major source of food for us.
How Can It Be Prevented
- Ensuring that there is no leakage of crude oil from tankers by regular monitoring of vessels by concerned agencies.
- Declaring deliberate discharge of crude oil by vessels and industrial waste by industries on land as an offense with a significant penalty.
- Ensuring that garbage produced by humans is treated properly, instead of just dumping it in the oceans.
- Ensuring that the amount of air pollution, which causes phenomena such as acid rain, is lessened, if not totally curbed.
- Understanding the importance of marine life for us and ensuring that we don't harm them.
More importantly, rather than just talking about such measures, proper implementation at all the levels has to be ensured if we intend to make the crusade of 'clean oceans' successful.
We can't just leave the prevention part to the authorities. The steps we take at individual level, will ensure that no further damage is caused. We need to understand that irrespective of what development we achieve in various sciences, success will always elude us when we disturb the nature.