Even though life originated there, it's very easy for humans to stay on land and forget about 71% of our planet which is covered by water. We being selfish beings, get alarmed when the quality of air gets deteriorated but as the ill effects of ocean pollution don’t affect us on a faster scale nor are visible on daily basis very little is being done to prevent it let alone highlight it. Plastic pollution, overfishing, mining, ocean surface acidification and of course climate breakdown - feel so distant from our hearts.
Bottled water providers do not produce water, they produce plastic bottles
About 100 Million tons of plastic is generated every year and approximately 10% of it (About 13 Million tons yearly estimated by UN), resulting in reduction of marine life population and entering the human food chain. The floating plastic is responsible for deaths of about 1 Million sea birds and about 1Lac marine mammals every year as due to their shiny nature, they attract these animals. Predictions say that even if we keep on disposing waste into marine at the same rate, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 !
There exists a huge garbage patch in the pacific ocean of about 1.6 Million square kilometre called as the great pacific garbage patch. Due to the enormity of the ocean the garbage particulars are disbursed and thus not detectable by satellite imagery, but approximates are that there is about 100kG of plastic per square kilometre in the centre, slimming down to 10kG on the edges.
Not only the plastic waste but industrial waste, sewage sludge, and radioactive waste are also being dumped into the ocean on a regular basis. Fertilisers and pesticides which are used to increase the produce of crops on land upon entering the ocean, have irreversible effects on reproductive process of certain marine species leading to their extinction.
Humans are responsible for approximate 8 Million tonnes of oil spillage in the ocean till date. Our response time to a oil spill is not at all encouraging and efforts to clean the oil spill start only after the oil spreads over a large area. While only the major leaks and spills make the newspaper or news channels headline, much of the oil in the ocean comes from oil pipe leakage, oil tankers discharging ballast water from oil tanks or used engine oil disposal routine.
Oceans act as natural carbon sink for the world as they absorb the CO2 from the atmosphere. Increasing level of this gas in the atmosphere results in its increase in the ocean. Couple this with nutrient pollution or Eutrophication there forms a layer of marine plants on the surface of water which blocks the passage of sunlight, consuming oxygen in the water eliminating life form which lives below that area.
While pollutants are also responsible for eliminating the fish population, over fishing by humans completes the job. Global fish consumption has increased exponentially over the past 60 years and is about 20kG per person. This has resulted in the increase of illegal fishing boats, fishing from further depths of the ocean, fishing above permitted limit per boat by the local laws. In Canada, overfishing of cod has led to near extinction of these species.
An Harvard University's School of Public Health paper by Sunderland shows how over fishing and climate change has come back to haunt humans. Over fishing of small fishes, forces the predators to feed on alternate food sources which are higher in methyl-mercury. Due to the climate change making the ocean water warmer, have increased the energy needs of smaller fish forcing them to ingest more prey containing methyl-mercury. This had led to the increase of mercury in humans diet, which is responsible for neurological disorders, particularly in children and babies whose mother also consume fish during pregnancy. The concentration of methyl-mercury rose by about 23% in cod fish and 27% in bluefin tuna in Atlantic ocean.
For every 1 degree Celsius rise in the oceans average temperature, total mass of sea life drops about 5%
European union is moving towards banning plastic straws, and knives by 2021 and China by 2025. India recently challenged the plastic industry by banning 6 items of single use plastic and scrapping them completely by 2022. Till now, India lacked a organised system to manage plastic waste and this announcement on 2nd October will really prove to be historic if implemented properly.
Governments all around the world are becoming stricter in their policies of dumping industrial waste into water bodies, which leads into the oceanic water. Various tests certificates are now required to dump the waste which existed before are now even more stricter due to public protests and organisations.
Oil tankers companies are required to have a rapid response teams in case there is a oil spill.
Various organisations like Oceana, Aquaculture Stewardship Council,Fisheries Innovation Scotland, etc are doing their part, some by trying to curb overfishing some by educating people on how to farm fish in a better organised manner. Monterey Bay Aquarium org, partners up with consumers, chefs, and businesses and educates them about how to better their sea food purchasing decisions according to the ocean life.
One major problem when fishing on a large scale is that with the required selected species of fishes, some other fishes also unnecessarily get caught-up in the net. The UN FAO estimates that about 10-25% of the catch is discarded due to this. Oceana like organisations have come up with a net, which can solve this issue by using a net with appropriate openings for the un required fishes to escape.
"We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it." —President Obama
Hopefully as we enter into the new decade the UN and the countries governments will take note of the harm and ill effects of our actions on marine life, water quality and its resulting effects on humans. We have seen a lot of positive actions with deadlines set by the authorities in the recent years like for shipping industry, 2030 is supposed to be the year in which ships should be sailing in a carbon neutral mechanism. This all indicates that the global community as a whole is becoming aware of the damage we are doing and wants to correct our wrong. Oceans which consists more part of our planet than land, obviously have more control over the overall health of the plant than the land !