Oceans are essential environmental resources as they provide a lot of benefits to the people. For instance, they act as habitat to many aquatic animals that are food to human beings. Oceans not only act as habitat for marine organisms but also act as transport systems as well as carbon sinks, an important provision that reduces global warming by regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, due to urbanization, the health of the oceans has been threatened as countries employ strategies such as industrialization to help them boost their economic position. Such practices have affected the health of the ocean by contributing to various forms of marine pollution mostly occurs due to anthropogenic activities. The paper will discuss marine pollution focusing on the types of pollution, the sources and some of the various strategies that are currently being employed to reduce such pollution.
As earlier mentioned, oceans have played an essential role in supporting human life in different aspects. Such include through enabling diversity where the oceans support various living and non-organisms. It also acts as a source of water due to its critical role in enabling the water cycle. It also provides food and acts as a transportation channel and recreational facilities for the humans dwelling in the coastal regions (White, 2007).
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The human need for economic and infrastructure development has however adversely impacted the health of the oceans. The extent of damage varies depending on the policies and strategies adopted by the country assigned with the responsibility of protecting the given coastal waters. However, activities in one country may affect the ocean features located in a different geographical position. Such effects may be the melting of glaciers that can be as a result of global warming, resulting from increased global production of greenhouse gasses (Hofer, 2008).
Measuring the extent of the impact can employ various techniques targeting the functioning of the ocean. Such basis may include the ability of the ocean to provide food, support fishing, provide natural products such as coral reefs, acts as carbon sequestration, protect the coastal regions through natural barriers and habitats, support the coastal livelihood, provide clean waters and act as a recreational facility (Hester, 2011).
Types and Sources of marine pollution
The various distinct types of water pollution and their respective sources include:
Nutrient pollution occurs when various forms of nutrients are added to the water bodies. Such nutrients may be washed from sewage, wastewater, and fertilizers in the farm and be carried by runoff to the water bodies. High concentration of nutrients in the oceans is harmful since it increases the growth of ocean weeds and algae, therefore, competing with other marine animals for the low amount of dissolved oxygen (Hofer, 2008). The depletion of the oxygen can contribute to the death of marine life.
Another type of marine pollution is the one originating from the contamination of surface water. Such can originate from land runoff where harmful substances flow over the land either due to flooding or the as a result of melting down (White, 2007). The contaminated water then comes into contact with the water sources hence polluting them by either physically mixing or through the dissolving of these substances.
Another form of water pollution is through the reduction of the amount of dissolved oxygen in the oceans. Pollution of this kind affects the aerobic and anaerobic organisms supported by the oceans. It occurs when biodegradable materials are disposed into the ocean. Once they decay, they produce nutrients that support the growth of algae and ocean weeds. The death of aerobic organisms due to lack of oxygen further contribute to the additional growth of anaerobic organisms contributing to the production of toxic substances such as ammonia and sulfides (Hofer, 2008).
Pollution of the oceans can also occur through contamination of groundwater. When it rains, the chemicals, and pesticides through leaching, infiltrate through the soil and end up contaminating the ground water. Such sources of chemicals and pesticides may include agricultural farms. When the water table if close to the ground, the rate of groundwater contamination is higher when compared to a low water table (White, 2007).
Marine pollution may also take the form of particulate matter where materials that do not dissolve in water are thrown into the ocean. Such materials may settle on the ocean floor whereas others may be suspended thus tampering with the beauty of the oceans. Sources of particulate matter pollution include debris and trash generated by the communities residing close to the oceans which may dump garbage into the oceans (Hester, 2011). The most common are plastic debris which due to its inability to decay suspends it in the oceans for quite an extended period.
Chemical pollution occurs when chemicals, either from the farms or industries are discharged into the oceans. Chemicals from the farms include pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that were primarily aimed at boosting production (White, 2007). Due to the toxic nature of the chemicals, aquatic life is endangered demanding an immediate response.
Another common form of pollution is through oil spillage. With the oceans acting as a common transportation vessels, risks of oil spillage are high (Hester, 2011). This form of pollution is dangerous not only due to the toxicity of the oil but also because the oil may take a long period before it clears up. Once a there is an oil spillage, the rate of oxygen dissolving in the water is slowed down suffocating the aquatic life beneath is spillage.
Extent of ocean pollution
Various researches have been carried to determine the full extent of ocean pollution. One research to assess the level of toxicity of the Atlantic have revealed higher concentration in the water close to the New Jersey shores when compared to water in the ocean (Hester, 2011). Such toxicity has been increased through the release of chemicals into the oceans.
The same study has also identified reduced amount of dissolved oxygen in the same region resulting from an increase in the concentration of nutrients. Such nutrients have been increased through decomposing of biodegradable materials increasing the amount of ocean weeds and algae, which have consumed a lot of oxygen resulting in its decline (Hester, 2011). In these regions, the diversity has been greatly affected by some different fish species and other species declining.
The sea level in many regions has also risen to an extent various families residing in the coastal regions have been displaced (Hester, 2011). The melting of the ice caps and glaciers due to pollution have contributed to the rise.
An estimated half of the amount of coral reef in Australia has been lost in the last century (White, 2007). More than ten percent of the total coral reef is estimated to have been lost so far. The loss can be attributed to high level of pollution among other causes such as fishing and heating of the oceans.
Protecting the oceans
Various strategies have been adopted to ensure the health of the ocean. One such have been through activism where many organizations have indulged in environmental activism making people aware of the dangers brought about by ocean pollution. Such organizations include Greenpeace, Oceana and Ocean Research and Conservation Association (Hofer, 2008).
Various governments have erected several policies to safeguard oceans against pollution. For instance, some governments like the United States have set penalties for individuals and organizations that will be found contaminating the marine system. Environmental organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency have also enacted several policies and restrictions to tackle marine pollution (Hester, 2011). The policies are meant to minimize ocean pollution from ships and reducing dumping and debris thrown into the oceans. Apart from setting policies geared towards the mitigation of ocean pollution, environmental agencies have also developed educational programs to create public awareness on the importance of protecting the marine environment.
State governments have also helped tackle the matter through regulating the level of pollution. Such include the Endangered Species Act, which ensures the reduced use of pesticides and herbicides in agricultural farms (Hofer, 2008). Organizations have also heavily invested in technology and through various innovative strategies have come up with ways to minimize the effect various organizations pose to the oceans. Such an organization is Ocean Conservancy that has provided various scientific solutions to matters relating to the ocean health (Hester, 2011).
Hester, R. E. (2011). Marine pollution and human health . Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.
Hofer, T. N. (2008). Marine pollution: New research . New York: Nova Science Publishers.
White, M. W. D., & White, M. W. D. (2007). Australasian marine pollution laws . Leichhardt, N.S.W: Federation Press.