Protect Our Ocean
Humans have been affecting the ocean since the age of Industrialization and modernization. Each century we have found better ways to find our food source out in the ocean. Though, we have made more of an impact within the last century. Over a third of monitored fish stocks have collapsed due to overfishing. Thirty-five percent of the coastal wetlands have been destroyed from pollution. Humans are even altering the ocean’s own ability to absorb carbon dioxide and its way to regulate the climate. The ocean absorbs thirty to fifty percent of our carbon dioxide and it produces fifty to seventy percent of the oxygen we breathe.
There are four oceans, the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Artic. The Pacific is the largest of those four. With all of them combined they cover over seventy percent of the Earth, becoming the largest ecosystem on the planet. Over one million known species live in the ocean. It is possible that over nine million more species are yet to be discovered. Not many people know that our ocean and our ocean’s animals are in serious trouble due to overfishing and pollution.
Seafood is about five percent of the protein in a person’s diet. In places such as China, Iceland, and Japan, that number is much higher. The marine animals consume the deadly toxins and poisons that we pollute the water with. They then become our food source and we in turn can become poisoned.
There are nearly one hundred fifty dead zones in the ocean. Dead zones are areas that have been polluted from our sewage, toxic chemical dumping, and the high levels of nitrogen in our farm fertilizers. The oxygen in these areas has been depleted and nothing can live nor survive there. These dead zones can range anywhere from one square mile to forty-five thousand square miles. The ocean itself cannot fix these areas but we can find ways to fix them ourselves.
Of the world’s surveyed lakes, rivers, and estuaries, about forty percent are too polluted to use. Signs are posted around these areas, warning you that it is unsafe to swim, fish, or drink the water. Eighty percent of water pollution comes from land based sources, such as public water and sewage, and domestic waste. The sewage treatment facilities do not remove the phosphorus compounds in their waste and causes algae to grow at excessive levels in lakes, ponds, and slow moving rivers. Sewage treatment facilities do not treat all disease causing bacteria before its waste is dumped back into the water supply. This spreads viruses and viral illnesses throughout the lakes and ponds and causes eutrophication. Eutrophication is where a body of water is too rich in sewage and or chemicals creating an excess growth of algae. The algae kills the oxygen in the water causing other plants, animals, and organisms in that area die. Contaminants are carried through the rivers and streams into the ocean.
Ten percent of water pollution comes from marine dumping. Boaters discard more than 400,000 tons of garbage every year. Some of the trash thrown overboard is plastic, which is not biodegradable. It is life threatening to the animals that encounter this debris. They can get entangled in nets or fishing line. Seals, sea lions, and birds can get the plastic six pack holder around their necks and be choked to death. Some animals will even swallow the plastic debris and suffocate or cause them to starve to death as it gives them a feeling of being full.
Sometimes boaters even spill oil or gasoline into the water and not clean it up. Oil contains zinc, sulfur, and phosphorous. Gasoline contains more than 100 hydrocarbon compounds, as well as lead. Some toxins can sink to the bottom of the lake, pond, or ocean, while other toxins will float. Even floating toxins is just as deadly as the non-floating toxins. Microorganisms, which are a part of a food source for some aquatic life, live in the top layers of the water. Even water fowl can land in the toxic waste and become covered in it. Oil damages the waterproofing on a bird’s feathers, causing them to drown.
Other animals that do not live in the water but use the water as a part of their lifestyle can also become easily affected. It can damage a seal pup’s fur and cause hypothermia. The oil can be too heavy for them and cause them to drown or make them to slow to escape predators. Oil pollution can cause blindness, ulcers, damaging effects to a marine mammal’s immune system, and bacterial infections. A seal pup can become poisoned as it can be absorb through its mother’s milk. An entire generation can be eradicated because the oil pollution damages the eggs and larvae.
Coral reefs, salt marshes, and mangroves play an important role in the ecosystem. They filter and clean up some of the polluted water that runs off the land. Rain drainage, another type of a pollution agent, carries contaminants from highway debris and construction sights. It is carried through the rivers and into the ocean; it can even find its way into fresh water sources.
Manufacturing plants and constructions sites pour off toxins and other poisonous solvents and materials into the water supply. Factories and power plants discharge hot water into the water supply, increasing the water temperature and decreasing the oxygen levels, disrupting the ecological balance in the water.
In 2010 BP’s deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico caused an oil spill that not only devastated livelihoods in the Gulf of Mexico, it also destroyed ecosystems, killed eight hundred animals, and destroyed one of two spawning grounds of the Bluefin Tuna. The Bluefin Tuna is fast becoming an extinct species due to overfishing. Almost ninety percent of the big fish populations have been devastated. The Cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish, and flounder have not had the chance to reproduce, causing their numbers to dwindle. The average price for Bluefin Tuna is around $75,000USD, making it hard for those to not overfish. Tuna is a migratory marine animal. The numbers of adults that are able swim back to their spawning grounds are decreasing each year, making a decline in reproduction.
Fish are not the only marine animal hunted for food. In 1986 a global ban was put on commercial whaling, but since then Iceland, Norway, and Japan together have killed over 25,000 whales. Japan alone illegally kills over 1,000 whales each year in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. They claim it is for scientific research, which is one of the loopholes in the international moratorium that will allow anyone the right to kill whales. The other loophole is aboriginal whaling.
There are eight species of baleen whales and thirty-five species of toothed whales. Of the thirteen largest whale species, seven of them are near extinction. The Gray Whale is the most endangered. Whales are mostly hunted for their blubber, which can be turned into oil. People also use their meat, skin, and baleen or whalebone.
Whales are not the only marine mammal Japan hunts for. Dolphins are a two billion dollar a year industry. Dolphin meat is not even a delicacy in Japan, so it is sold as whale meat. Dolphin meat is highly toxic with extreme levels of mercury and a person can die from mercury poisoning if they consume it.
The decline of sharks, dolphins, whales, and large fish are being replaced by an incline of microbes, jellyfish, and disease. The pollution that goes into the ocean becomes the marine animal’s food source and those marine animals become our food source. We continue to pollute the water supply, killing off animals and we continue to over fish the surviving animals. If we keep doing this, there will be nothing left in the ocean, at least not safe enough for us to consume. The ocean itself will not be able to repair itself and our own survival could be in jeopardy.
We need to find better ways to get rid of our trash and make recycling a necessity. We should be better aware of where our trash goes and how it is handled. We also need to find better ways of disposing our toxic waste and our sewage and not dump it into our lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean. Animals are an important part of our ecosystem. We need protein as part of our diet. The majority of our protein comes from the ocean. We also need oxygen to breathe. Over half of our oxygen comes from the ocean. The ocean also absorbs our carbon dioxide, which is the air we exhale. We need to drink water to survive, as our body is made up of seventy percent water. Over seventy percent of our Earth is covered in water. We need the ocean and its animals for us to survive. It is detrimental for all of us to become knowledgeable about the ocean and the trouble it is in. We are responsible for killing the marine animals and polluting the ocean. We can put a stop to all that.