It is a common scientific belief that life started in the oceans. The ocean is also the largest habitants and home to a large number of organisms. Over the years, the ocean has been exposed to a lot of pollution. Marine pollution denotes the introduction of harmful materials or chemicals in our oceans which may disrupt the marine ecosystem, cause other harmful effects to marine life or change the chemical properties of the water. This pollution may be from natural processes or as a result of human activities. Marine pollution from natural process mainly involves the deposition of materials in the ocean during volcanic activities.
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Marine pollution has however been attributed to human activities. During the beginning of the industrial revolution, most people believed that since the oceans comprised a very large area, they had unlimited ability to disperse and dilute pollutants thus it was impossible for marine pollution to occur (Garrison, 2009). This belief led man to use the ocean as a dump site. Nuclear materials, chemicals, and other man made waste all found their way to the ocean. By the time people started noticing, a lot of pollution had occurred and a problem had started developing.
Marine pollution due to human activities mainly occurs in the form of direct discharge into the ocean, atmospheric pollution and runoff due to rain (Ahnert & Borowski, 2000). Direct discharge occurs when harmful materials are directly introduced (dumped) into the ocean. Oil spills, dumping of radioactive waste and sewage into the ocean are but some of the few ways direct discharge occurs. Oil spills have become one of the modern means of direct pollution.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the recent Deep Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest oil spills in U.S. history (Robertson, 2010). Oil spills not only introduced chemicals into the ocean but also formed a layer restricting the flow of oxygen into the ocean thereby killing a lot of marine wildlife. Dumping of sewage into the oceans occurs all over the world slowly changing the PH of the oceans as well as changing the chemical composition of the water.
Surface runoff has also been one of the major routes of marine pollution. Materials collected from land are introduced into rivers during rainy seasons and find their way into our oceans. Fertilizers, plastic debris and waste from paved roads are just but examples introduced into the oceans through surface runoff (Garrison, 2009). Fertilizers introduce chemicals such as nitrogen that result in algae blooms responsible for low oxygen content in the oceans.
Plastic debris is non-biodegradable and can last for a very long time in the ocean. The final means of marine pollution is through atmospheric pollution. Air pollution caused by introduction of chemicals into the atmosphere results in acid rain thereby adding chemicals into the ocean thus changing the chemical composition of the ocean (Ahnert & Borowski, 2000).
Marine pollution has become one of the major concerns in the modern world. Man has realized that the oceans are a precious resource and it is our responsibility to maintain this resource as well as to ensure sustainability. Marine pollution can be solved through the institution of international laws banning deposition of harmful materials into the ocean (Grigg & Kiwala, 1970). Another means of curbing this pollution is by stopping agricultural activities on river banks and restricting deep sea mining and oil extraction.
The steps taken to control air pollution is a positive step in the right direction but more has to be done to stop air pollution such as reducing carbon waste from automobiles, and seeking alternative energy sources and reducing the use of fossil fuels. The oceans are the source of life and they may be the reason life ends on earth. It is our responsibility to ensure that we rectify what we have caused and protect our precious resource.
Ahnert, A., & Borowski, C. (2000). Environmental risk assessment of anthropogenic activity in the deep sea. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress & Recovery, 7(4), 299. Web.
Garrison, T. (2009). Essentials of Oceanography (5th ed.) Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning. Web.
Grigg, W. and Kiwala, R. (1970). Some ecological effects of discharged wastes on marine life. California Department of Fish and Game, vol 56: 145-155. Web.
Robertson, C. (2010). Estimates Suggest Spill Is Biggest in U.S. History. The New York Times. Web.