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The earth is approximately 70% water and comprises of five oceans, pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and southern. The oceans are faced with intense pollution from various quotas, ranging from acid rain, oil spillage, sewage, sludge and run-offs from the drain and surroundings adjacent to the sea. All these pollutants end up in the sea which threatens marine life and the entire ecosystem. Heavy metals poisoning from industrial effluent, which streams down the ocean, are among toxics that endanger marine life. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead have been associated with cases of birth defects and nervous system breakdown in whale and sharks. Other elements which threaten marine life adversely are toxics from pulp, paper mills and poly-aromatic hydro carbons (PAH) from oil and burning of coal and wood. All these pollutants have contributed to abnormal genetic defects on marine offspring.
Untreated sewage meanders its way to the ocean, which drains lot of harmful bacteria and parasites, which can put harvesting in beach and shellfish on hold. Sewage also spells danger to by accelerating algae growth which is known to suffocate marine organisms by reducing the levels of oxygen available in ocean water. Sewage provides the algae with a more conducive environment for them to flourish and blossom.
All these contaminants are spelling time bomb on marine life and humans; who depends on seafood to meet their food supply. The levels of heavy metals pollution on the sea lives a lot to be desired, as it is a worry phenomenon which if left unchecked, will cripple marine life and humans like. Shark and swordfish have been known to have considerable amounts of mercury and health experts issue warning on their consumption; more so children and pregnant women. Consuming fish affected with contaminants; heavy metal to be precise can lead to stunted mental growth in children, organ failure, and respiratory-related diseases and even cancer. Metals pollute ocean waters and with adverse effects to both marine and humans. High levels of chromium, aluminum, silver, cadmium, titanium, lead and mercury are posing a threat on human food supply, health and the marine wellbeing. Sperm whales top the food chain in marine life, with years of feeding on contaminated food supply with high concentrations of metals; humans are staring at a looming food supply and health crises.
Marine debris is one of ocean pollutants, mainly by humans who through gross negligence and ignorance are not aware that discharging or littering in small scale might have a cumulative continuous effect in the ocean. Often called “beach litter” is a term synonymous to marine debris; it is a big mantle which the respective authorities need to look at. Marine debris are washed, blown or dumped by the shore. Many people go to the beach; to bask, surf or to just have fun, but with all these activities people do carry around snack, soft drinks, chewing gum, or food. When one is done with whatever he/she was using, what other place to litter or discharge other than at the shores of the beach or coastline. With the shores comes the wave which collects anything at its path. The debris is swept by the sometime violent or turbulent waves and casted into the far and wide beds of the sea. The debris is anything from soda cans, cigarette sticks, bottles, plastic papers, wrappers, and fishing gears etc.
Majority of this debris are non-biodegradable and are therefore having a long time span of degrading the sea and its wildlife. Marine debris can affect digestive system of marine wildlife and threaten their existence entirely. Infract, there has been studies of reduced fish and marine wildlife population across the over 250 species. Broken glasses, cigarettes butts and waste from industries can even affect the local economies or an entire economy by issuing beach closures and swimming advisories. Marine debris affects the quality of the waters both for humans, fish and marine life. Water from the debris can cause sanitation and respiratory related ailments posing health risk to the public or to the individuals swimming or surfing the ocean. One-third of the marine debris is composed of plastic bags. Plastic bags scattered along the strand line of the shores always find their ways to the ocean, floating miles of distances away from the coastline. Plastic bags tend to have severe repercussions and effects on the wellbeing of the blue waters. They entangle whales, sea lions, turtles, seabirds, sharks. They floats as far as the polar regions to the equatorial waters; having a pervasive effect on pollution of the ocean. Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and their biological process is complex making it to maintain its state for a long time, they always get weathered with time, and disintegrate into small pieces, all this process catalyzed by sun’s UV rays, which further breaks it down to harmful components detrimental to the fish and marine wildlife.
Developing nations lead in terms of contributing immense amount of plastic and synthetic waste materials discharged or disposed into the ocean bed. As the less developed nations’ cities grows with no sound structured waste and disposal managements systems coupled by lack of local and international legislation which might look at the plight of the ocean and implementing punitive legislation, one cannot help but imagine considerable amounts of waste going down the drain into the sea surface. Evident by the growth of consumer-centric societies in less developed nations which will further increase consumption and with most of the products on chain store being wrapped by plastic bags, this only shows the magnitude of the vast situation facing the ocean flora and fauna.
Besides, plastic bag, derelicts fishing gears damages the coral reef. Coral reefs are huge structures of limestone which take thousands of years to form and grow. They are more of a living matter than rock, as many may perceive. Lines and nets run into the coral with subsequent waves and corrosion which leads to the coral heads to be ripped apart and break off. Coral reefs are the life blood of fish and with their depletion, humans will and in fact, have started experiencing dwindling numbers of fish and other marine wildlife. Pollutions have endangered mangrove forests which is a vital source of life for coral reefs. The destruction of the mangrove forest by our industrialization will mean in the near future most of the marine species will be extinguished, if drastic or legislative measures are not put on place. Further destruction of the mangrove forests has been catalyzed by construction of shrimp factories for international export, (Moore and the Best, 2005). Overfishing is also one of the in-direct way of polluting the ocean because it interferes with fish and other marine wildlife natural replenishing processes.
This has seen diminishing numbers of various species of both fish and other marine wildlife. Coral reefs are made up of limestone which contains considerable amounts of calcium carbonate. Pollutants from fertilizers and radioactive materials tend to cause corrosion and thus a chemical reaction which severely degrades the reefs, (Hogshire, 1990). Carbon emissions are one of the concomitants pollutants posing destruction on coral reefs. Carbon dioxide emissions have really affected the natural chemistry of the ocean and coral reef is not an exception. Coral reefs build skeleton out of calcium, and therefore the more carbon emitted into the atmosphere which downpours as acid rain; the natural mechanism of the coral reef is jeopardized. Degradation of the coral reef can have dire consequences on tourism; if the magnificent and dazzling rocky gardens of the reef are destroyed, scuba divers will have nothing to grasp their attention and hence lost dollars in revenue.
Beachgoers always carry with them in their arsenal; sunscreen lotions or products. Majority of the sunscreen products are non-biodegradable, and with composition of harmful ingredients or compounds. Active compounds in most sunscreen brands are benzophenone-3, octocrylene, and butyparaben among others. These compounds are washed away whenever beachgoers swim, surf and leftover sunscreen tubes. The amount can sound insignificant but the hazardous chemical accumulation over a certain period of time can prove to be a health menace to both humans and marine wildlife in general. Report shows that about 10% of the world coral reefs are contaminated by non-biodegradable sunscreen products, the report further expounds by stating that, the ocean waters around corals exposed to sunscreen wash-offs by harmful chemical sunscreen compounds have fifteen times more viruses than corals non-exposed to the chemical compounds. It has been found that these chemicals cause coral reef bleaching; the viruses replicate very quickly exterminating the algae and devoid of the green algae, they cannot carry on photosynthesis, which is needed to convert sunlight’s energy into food. This creates an imbalance on food supply of the entire marine ecosystem. Benzophenone-3 and butyparaben chemical compound in non-biodegradable lotions or tubes have been known to cause allergies, endocrinal infections, skin disorders and cancer in humans.
. Coral reef is undeniably the mother of marine biodiversity. They are one of the oldest and are the mammoth landmarks on this planet. Various marine animals depend on coral reef as hide outs from gigantic predators and food. Coral reefs are the nervous center of the entire marine ecosystem and their vulnerability to numerous forms of pollution and mostly high temperatures from global warm temperatures. With recent tsunamis, hurricanes and typhoon that produces violent turbulent currents, which in turn with large volumes of sand stirred from the sea floor and consequently destroys the delicate reef biodiversity.
About two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs are on the verge of early demise as they are being destroyed at a dramatic scale by myriad of variables caused by humans. Ocean pollution is a reality happening just in front of watchful eyes of our governments, big corporations and the general citizens or beachgoers oblivious of the effects of their habits to the entire marine ecosystem.