The state of our oceans is parlous, to say the least. This vast, expansive place which some scientists believe was the origin of all life on this planet is under threat to a degree never experienced by any ecosystem on earth. The impact of this on all our lives is going to be catastrophic, but the impact it is already having on marine ecosystems and billions of sea creatures is, in fact, close to heartbreaking. Here’s some of the top problems with oceanic pollution and what we can do to stop it.
(1) Plastic is the single biggest problem
More than 10 million metric tonnes of plastic makes its way into the oceans each year. And since your average plastc water bottle takes over 400 years to break down, you’re looking at vast swathes of toxic waste. Some of it sinks, some it congregates in plastic islands, and others is swallowed (fatally) by marine life. Not far from California, the North Pacific Gyre is now the largest plastic island in the world, currently double the size of the state of Texas.
What Can you Do: Boycott plastic bags, use public drinking fountains instead of buying water bottles
(2) Heavy Metals are Killing Marine Life
One of the byproducts of the enormous economic grow of our civilization, is the toxic run off from industry. Sewage, petrochemical pollution and runoff is radically changing heavy metal concentrations like mercury, lead and cadmium in the marine environment, killing sea creatures in vast numbers. Scientists are now officially warning pregnant women that the consumption of certain fish as a source of DHA is now a palpable threat to their baby’s health, risking developmental disorders.
(3) Decline of Oceanic Phytoplankton Could Pose Irrevocable Threat
If we think of the oceans as the living blood of our planet, then one might term marine phytoplankton as its red blood cells. At least half of the oxygen in the area comes from these critical single-celled organisms. Some half of the oceans plankton has now disappeared and this rate appears to be increasing rapidly. Phytoplankton requires the nutrients which come from the cold water layer in the oceans so, since warmer water sits on top of cold, the process of global warming is causing something known as ‘stratification’, effectively starving plankton of its nutrients. ‘If we don’t stop this catastrophe now’ commented ecologist Piers Ede, ‘the so-called dead zones we’re finding in the oceans are going to increase, effecting fisheries and further reducing the amount of useable oxygen in the atmosphere. I would consider this one of the most pressing issues faced by humanity right now.’
How to Help: Immediate, massive cuts in C02 Emissions. Greenpeace is running an important campaign to pressure Donald Trump to reconsider his stance on the Paris Climate Accord here.