Ocean life vs. pollution: an ongoing battle


Photo via NDLA under the creative commons license

11 million metric tons of plastic go into the ocean every year

Every year, scientists estimate that 11 million metric tons of plastic go into the ocean. With this ongoing and worsening problem, it is clear that there is an issue that needs to be addressed and solved.

Currently, there is a patch of plastic twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. China is the leading country in ocean pollution being the source of 27.7% of the ocean’s plastic at 200.7 cubic meters of waste. The following contributing countries being Indonesia, at about 10%, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Americans are contributing about 1% of the oceans’ plastic. 

The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”

— Robert Swan, environmental leader and public speaker

Plastic makes up 80% of the pollution of the oceans; however, there are all kinds of waste that make up ocean pollution. Metal, cement, chemicals, and glass all contribute to the problem, as well. This kind of pollution is fatal for the ecosystems that fill the ocean, and it remains in these ecosystems for years and years after it first enters them.

How does pollution affect coral reefs?

Coral reef dying (Photo via Flickr under the creative commons license)

Chemical contamination is one of the main factors that is killing the coral reefs. This type of contamination stems from land farming; when farmers use fertilizer and pesticides, runoff causes these chemicals to leak into the nearest body of water, and therefore, eventually the ocean. Coral reefs are also affected by oil and oil dispersants. Of course, these are not the only causes of the deterioration of coral reefs, however, they are a large contributing factor. Scientists estimate that if stronger action is not taken to protect coral reefs, they could be gone by 2050, and with them, a large number of marine species.

How does pollution affect sea animals?

Possibly the most heartbreaking outcome of pollution is the harm that it causes to animal life, specifically ocean animals. Pollution of any kind is deadly to these animals. Fish become tangled in and injured in debris, and some animals may eat the plastic after mistaking it for food. Small organisms feed on microplastics, which can now be detected in a worrisome number of marine species. Because of the food chain, humans end up eating microplastics, as well. 

Harbor Seal entangled in fishing net (Photo via NDLA under the creative commons license)

Because of the lethal effect that pollution has on all types of ecosystems and organisms, something needs to be done. Not only will humans lose some of the earth’s most magnificent creatures and organisms, but this issue has the ability to eventually take humans with it. There is no “Planet B”, and it is time for humans to fix and issue that they caused.