Pollution of the Marine Environment

The world ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface, and hundreds of thousands of marine species contribute to its biodiversity. All the oceanic animals, plants, and bacteria that exist in the ocean are considered marine life. Before the first environmental laws were implemented in the second part of the 20th century, humans dumped trash, sewage sludge, and industrial waste into the ocean. As a result, marine pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues on the planet.

Environmental pollution is a result of human activity, and ocean pollution, in particular, is an example of that. Noise pollution, drilling, and acidification are some of the processes that impact the world ocean (Denchak, 2018). Industrial carbon emissions change the chemistry of surface waters, increasing acidity, and lowering calcium carbonate levels. It directly affects a significant number of sea inhabitants that rely on this element to build their shells. Many marine animals communicate via the use of ultrasound, and sonars used by the ship as well as engine sounds can disrupt normal animal behaviors and even lead to their deaths (Denchak, 2018). Offshore drilling is another issue that increases carbon footprint and leads to ocean pollution, as oil spills happen regularly. Finally, ocean debris, consisting of litter and by-products of the industrial sector, kills thousands of marine animals annually and has been found even inside the Mariana trench (Denchak, 2018). All these forms of pollution have a significant impact not only on marine life but also on humans.

Marine pollution can cause numerous health issues in the human population. Evaporation of airborne chemicals and oil spills in water streams can lead to an increase in chronic diseases, including cancer (Nair, 2019). Accumulation of mercury in fish can be especially dangerous to human health, as fish and seafood are significant contributors to the human diet. Nair (2019) notes that the effects of mercury on the human body include damage to the central nervous system, fertility issues, and problems with blood pressure. Microplastics represent another hazard to human health, as they are found in freshwater systems and many aquatic organisms. Regular ingestion of microplastics in humans can lead to problems with the gastrointestinal system, liver, and central nervous system (Chang et al. 2019). Overall, the impact of pollution of the marine environment on human health is a serious issue that calls for immediate measures.

Marine pollution is a very diverse topic, and a single solution that would contribute towards resolving all issues does not exist. However, researchers have established several guidelines that can help protect the environment. International Maritime Organization (IMO) sets safety and quality standards for ship construction that reduce the chances of oil spills and prohibit the use of toxic chemicals in anti-fouling paints (Portman, 2016). The implementation of new regulations throughout the years significantly reduced the number of oil spills worldwide. On the other hand, while dumping plastic in the ocean has been prohibited for decades, studies confirm that the situation has been continuously worsening. Portman (2016) suggests complex measures to tackle the problem, such as extending producers’ responsibility, debris removal operations, and raising public awareness. Researchers agree that prevention policies are key to preserving the marine environment.

The marine environment represents the largest ecosystem on Earth and has a tremendous impact on its present and future. Marine pollution is caused by human actions and causes numerous long-term problems that affect marine life and human health. Therefore, it is vital to implement regulations and policies that tackle current issues and prevent the further spread of pollutants in the future. While many governments recognize the problem and take steps towards its solution, marine pollution will likely remain one of the most serious environmental challenges for decades or even centuries.

References

Chang, X., Xue, Y., Li, J., & Tang, M. (2019). Potential health impact of environmental micro‐ and nanoplastics pollution. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 40(1), 4-15.

Denchak, M. (2018). Ocean pollution: The dirty facts. Nrdc.org. Web.

Nair, A. K. (2019). Marine pollution and its impact on humans and animals. Academic Journal of Ocean Sciences, 1(1), 1-6. Web.

Portman, M. E. (2016). Environmental Planning for Oceans and Coasts. Springer.