Oceans remain vital for the survival of human beings and many other species’ sustainability. Therefore, we must treat the oceans with respect and preserve their ecosystem.
Oceans are the source of all life on planet Earth. Life started in the ocean billions of years ago, and the ocean has continued to sustain terrestrial species since then. Still, oceans remain vital for the survival of human beings and many other species’ sustainability. Therefore, we must treat the oceans with respect and preserve their ecosystem for us and all living things.
As things stand now, the oceans are under attack from the activities of human beings, whether direct or indirect. Billions of pounds of pollutants and contaminants enter the oceans each year, jeopardizing marine wildlife and the ecosystem. There are instances when the pollutants and contaminants can generate naturally. However, they are not the primary sources of problems that endanger our sustainability.
The vast majority of these pollutants come from two sources: Non-Point (runoff) and Point (single source). The pollutants from Non-Point Sources originate from runoffs such as farms, septic tanks, vehicles, factories, livestock ranches, timber harvest areas, and water treatment systems. Point Source pollutants originate directly from a single source, such as chemicals or oil spills.
Marine debris generated from human activities at the oceans or the shores also pollutes our oceans and waterways. Littering, stormwater discharge, poor waste management, and natural disasters like hurricanes contribute to marine debris. Microplastics and fishing gear are two dominant forms of marine debris that wreak havoc in the oceanic ecosystem. Marine animals ingest microplastics or become entangled in fishing gear. Many marine animals succumb to death from suffocating or getting entangled in fishing equipment every year. Microplastics are invisible to the naked eye, and they contaminate and endanger marine wildlife habitats. Since microplastics are invisible (they can range in size from 5 millimeters to 10 nanometers), they are ingested by marine wildlife regularly. Human beings also ingest microplastics because they infiltrate our water systems.
There are five garbage patches throughout the Earth’s oceans. The debris in these patches can be unimaginable, ranging from the depths of the ocean floor up to its surface. For comparison, one of the patches in the Pacific Ocean is equivalent to the size of Texas.
The disastrous effects of contaminants and heavy metals in our oceans can also take a toll on marine wildlife and its habitats, and overall, the entire ecosystem, including human beings. For example, the fish ingests the contaminants and heavy metals, and humans then consume the fish. Overconsumption of heavy metals, such as Mercury, leads to the impairment and malfunctioning of organs, nerves, and muscles. This is a detrimental result of how our actions are impacting the ecosystem and our sustenance.
Pollutants are usually man-made, but they can also originate naturally within the oceanic ecosystem. The concentration of a substance often determines whether or not it is a pollutant. For example, nitrogen and oxygen are essential nutrients for plant growth. However, suppose there is an overabundance (either naturally or from human activities). In that case, they can stimulate Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), also as known as Red Tides. Another harmful phenomenon that can occur naturally is when large amounts of algae sink towards the ocean floor and decompose. This process can consume much of the oxygen supply and deplete the available resources to marine life.
Although human beings may not have complete control over the naturally occurring phenomena, we do have the power to change the course of our behavior. The pollutants and contaminants ending up in the oceanic ecosystem because of our activities are causing enormous damage to marine wildlife and the ecosystem and threatening the survival and well-being of the human species into the future. We must act now to protect our oceans and, therein, protect ourselves and other species.
How can human beings help protect the ocean? Following are actions you can take to better our oceans, preserve life and protect our future:
- Stop using single-use plastics
- Don’t litter in your community and near waterways
- Be aware of and don’t purchase products that contain harmful chemicals, such as lawn fertilizers and weedkillers. These products contribute to runoff
- Reduce your carbon footprint by using more renewable energy options, unplug devices when you are not using them, or ride your bike whenever possible instead of driving a car
- Increase your ocean I.Q. and awareness
- Support organizations and government legislations that aim to protect our oceans and preserve marine wildlife