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The oceans on Earth cover approximately 71% of the surface of the planet.
The Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern Oceans are the five oceans on Earth. The oceans are full of mystery and are known as one of the most diverse places on earth.
The oceans on Earth are of utmost importance to the functioning of the global population as humans have, for thousands of years, delved into the oceans for food and water for sustenance. The Earth's oceans are valued as a great source of natural resources and an estimated one million marine species live in the ocean with invertebrates making up 95% of the ocean population.
Earth's marine environment has seen a massive amount of pollution over the years and millions of aquatic creatures lose their lives to issues caused by pollution. Dangerous carbon emissions, floating plastic, toxic wastes, and oil spills are some of the causes of the whole oceanic ecosystem being negatively affected and in turn, affecting the lives of the creatures that live in the oceans.
Ocean pollution is caused by the trash and chemicals that are dumped into the ocean from land-based sources. Ocean pollution causes drastic ill-effects on its surroundings causing an upset in the marine ecosystem.
Chemical contamination is a health concern for the world population as microfibers are often ingested by animals and humans alike since these particles are too small to separate in treatment facilities. Plastic pollution is one of the largest causes of ocean pollution.
More than 700,000 synthetic microfibers are dumped into the waterways with each load of laundry! Synthetic microfibers, unlike natural materials like wool or cotton, make up around 85% of all undegradable beach trash.
Around 80% of negative effects on marine animals are caused by plastic as ocean trash. Plastic debris receives much of its harmful characteristics through ocean pollution and is toxic to whichever animal consumes the plastic. Plastic is a major cause of marine pollution as it does not degrade, but instead, it breaks down into smaller pieces and remains in the ecosystem instead of disappearing. Various sea creatures fall victim to plastic in the waters. Plastic, as of today, is the largest contributor to marine pollution.
Since the '60s, the plastic composition in the Atlantic Ocean has tripled! Enormous garbage patches can be found floating in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. The Pacific ocean is home to one of the largest patches in existence.
Single-use plastics is the largest source of pollution as they are used only once before being dumped into the trash or directly into the ocean. These plastics are consumed by marine animals. Plastic bags often resemble jellyfish and are ingested by creatures that feed on jellyfish. Some seabirds consume plastic because of the usage of chemicals in the plastic that gives off the smell of food.
Septic tanks, dirt, oil, and motor vehicles are among the larger source of pollutants. Cigarettes and filters contribute to 32% of waste, containers and food wrappers contribute nine percent, lids and caps contribute eight percent, tableware, and plastic bottles contribute six percent, and plastic-based materials contribute five percent to the ocean garbage.
Based on various researches there is an estimated 15-51 trillion million micro-plastic float in our oceans, and they weigh between 205-520 million pounds. Synthetic fibers and microbeads form the majority of these pollutants as they are too diminutive to be separated in water treatment plants.
Only 20% of the ocean waste is a result of shipping, fishing, and cruise ship industries, the remaining 80% of the pollutants are from land-based sources like industries and incorrect waste management.
During coastal cleanups around the world, the five most commonly found items are single-use plastics in the form of plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic straws, plastic cigarette butts, and plastic bottles.
Until the '70s, toxic waste and garbage were knowingly dumped into the oceans and this practice became common all around the world which caused further degradation of the seas and oceans.
Oil spills are the fastest source of ocean deterioration as they are several times more harmful than waste and trash.
China and Indonesia are the largest contributors to plastic waste in the ocean with an estimated one-third of the total plastic waste originating in the two countries. 80% of the plastic pollution in the oceans comes from 20 countries, with the United States being one of them.
Ocean pollution comes in various forms that causes degradation of the marine ecosystem and affects marine life.
Ocean Acidification is caused by air pollution that carries harmful amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. Vulnerable habitats like coral reefs all around the world are affected because of harmful carbon emissions. Pollution in coral reefs affects marine life too as an estimated 25% of marine life can be found thriving in the coral reefs.
Plastic debris is another source of ocean pollution that has a negative impact on the ocean ecosystem. An estimated 5.25 trillion plastic pieces can be found in our ocean and plastic waste is a severe threat to marine life in the oceans in the year 2020. Turtles, fish, and seabirds ingest microplastic that is mixed with the water. This waste comes back to humans as the marine animals that we consume contain traces of toxic plastic materials.
Eutrophication increases the chemical concentration in the water and results in the growth of algae which lowers the oxygen composition of the water. Dead zones are a direct result of eutrophication.
Noise pollution is another contributor to ocean pollution. Oil exploration, seismic surveys, sonar, and mass cargo shipping cause a great amount of disturbance in the oceans causing aquatic animals to become affected. Whales are one such example as whale strandings are often traced back to the use of sonar by the Navy.
Toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, phenols, and Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) are known as persistent toxins and these harmful toxins enter marine life and the food chain causing death and various forms of diseases.
Ocean pollution is not harmful to just the marine creatures in the world's oceans, it also kills sea birds! Approximately one million sea birds die because of ocean pollution each year.
Based on studies, it is estimated that by the time we reach the year 2050, the oceans will have more plastic in them than fish (weight)!
Ocean acidification is one of the examples of how greenhouse emissions can affect the oceans. Acidification causes the ocean to lose its mussel mass, which in turn leads to the formation of an unsuitable ecosystem for marine animals like oysters, clams, and mussels to form their shells, making them an easy target for predators. This leads to an imbalance in the food chain and the multibillion dollar shellfish industry is greatly affected.
Plastic entanglement and ingestion have a dire effect on the lives of marine animals. Over 100,000 aquatic animals die each year from ingesting toxic waste and at least 50% of sea turtles in the marine ecosystem have consumed plastic.
Small animals at the bottom of the food chain absorb harmful chemicals in the form of food and these small animals are consumed by the larger ones thus increasing the chemical concentration. The larger animals have a high concentration of toxic material in their bodies compared to smaller animals.
Ocean pollution even reaches deep waters! Plastic bags, fishing equipment, shoes, glass bottles, metal cans, and tires are some of the most common pollutants that can be found in deep waters. Dead zones in deep waters result in an unsuitable environment for marine or plant life. At least 70% of ocean garbage can be found on the seafloor and cleaning them up is a tough ask.
Heavily polluted waters make their way back to humans and can cause health issues like hormonal problems, nerve damage, kidney damage, and reproductive issues.
Plastic has made its way even into the Mariana Trench! The Mariana Trench is the deepest oceanic trench on Earth at a depth of 36,201 ft (11,034 m) and marine life in that depth has also consumed plastic as ocean trash sits deep in the trench.
Direct oil spills make up about 12% of the oil-based pollution in the oceans. 36% of the oil is dumped into the oceans by companies and cities.
Fertilizer runoff causes eutrophication in the waters which results in the algae thriving and creating an algal bloom in the marine ecosystem. Red tides occur when harmful algal blooms produce a hazardous ecosystem that affects marine life as it depletes the oxygen content in the water.
The biochemistry, growth, and reproduction in marine life are affected by toxic metals dumped into the oceans.
Loggerhead sea turtles ingest plastic bags frequently because these bags look remarkably close to jellyfish, the main part of the turtles' diet.
Dead zones in the ocean are growing in number with each passing year. Scientists in 2004 found 146 dead zones in the ocean with low oxygen concentration levels in the water. Animal life suffocates and dies in these areas and by the year 2008, the number of dead zones grew to 405! The largest dead zone ever measured was found in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017. The zone was as large as New Jersey!
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest one of the five gyres in the ocean that is made up of waste materials. The Indian Ocean has one such patch, the Atlantic Ocean has two, and the Pacific Ocean has two, one of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These giant garbage patches are formed from wasted disposed of in the ocean that gathers to form these spots that directly harm the marine animals in the region. It is estimated that the floating plastic pieces in the North Pacific outnumber marine life in the ratio of 6:1.
Plastic makes up about 80% of the marine debris that affects the lives of various marine animals. At least 14 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year. More than 300 million tons of plastic waste are generated through the use of various applications.
The north-pacific, mainly the north-central pacific has the highest amount of plastic pollution of all oceans.
An estimated one truckload of plastic is disposed of in the ocean every minute!
Marine pollution is not just limited to salt waters as pollutants from the ocean move pollutants to coastal freshwater and in turn, contaminate groundwater and wells.
COVID-19 has caused further ocean pollution in the marine ecosystem as around 65 billion gloves and 129 billion masks are being disposed of on a monthly basis.
Drastic measures have to be taken to prevent further pollution of the oceans. Reducing the usage of chemical fertilizers is one such step that can be taken to stop harmful toxins affecting the marine ecosystem.
Reusable utensils and bottles should be promoted as these are two of the most common marine debris collects that are negatively impacting marine life.
Proper disposal of waste is yet another method that can be used to slow the rapid rate of ocean pollution in the world.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 37 shocking facts about ocean pollution and its effect on marine life then why not take a look at 19 mind-blowing asteroid facts for kids that adore solar system, or Charles Cornwallis facts: curious details revealed on British Forces?
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