Ocean Pollution is More than you Think
The official definition of ocean pollution is, “the presence in or introduction into the ocean of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects”, but the damage it does to the economy, and sea life and how it trickles down from one person to the ocean expands way past the page. The detrimental effects of ocean pollution and the various ways it impacts the world can be interpreted by the image of a tree. We only see the beautiful, tall 70-foot tree, but that result takes an average of ten to thirty years to manifest itself in front of us. The same goes for ocean pollution. The floating island of trash along the northern region of the pacific ocean that’s now 600,000 square miles didn’t get that way over night. The effects of ocean pollution are created through a series of events that start really small. An individual single-use straw that gets discarded on the beach gets drawn into the ocean from the tides and stuck in a little sea turtle’s nose, or gets broken down into microplastics that are consumed by larger fish, damaging sea life which in turn hurts the sea food market and a source of food to humans. This is a representation of what ocean pollution really is how prominent the issue is in our societies and communities.
A scientific study from “Earthwise” proved that sea animals eat plastic because it looks like food. To a hungry sea turtle, a floating plastic bag resembles a jellyfish. And while it is easier to pick out the larger plastics on a beach cleanup, the ones you can see aren’t the most harmful. The ocean pollution that does the most damage are the ones too small for us to see. OceanService.noaa.gov” states; “Plastic debris can come in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimeters in length (or about the size of a sesame seed) are called “microplastics.” These are the most harmful because it lures sea animals in without them knowing. According to the “National Geographic”, animals eat ocean plastic because it smells like food. This is because as plastic breaks down into the ocean, Algae, (a primary food source for many sea birds) begin to accumulate on it. Then the animals are led into a horrifying trap because they’re consuming the plastic along with the Algae and it’s ultimately killing them. This is a large contribution to the reduction of sea life and shows that ocean pollution is more harmful than the eye can even detect.
The factors that cause microplastics vary, but each one contributes to the issue significantly in different ways. The most common one is the human contribution. This aspect includes the plastic and other recyclable material found on beaches, riverbanks, or anywhere near large bodies of water. The human contribution to ocean pollution is the hardest to end because it’s the hardest to control. Research found by “Keep America Beautiful” reported that people litter on the beach every 12 paces. Based on an observation that they did, their findings proved that out of 1069 people, 43% said they littered for lack of trash cans. A possible solution would be to put a trash can every 12 paces, but then it spreads to large corporations dumping toxic chemicals into oceans. This is something that’s done regularly without any oversight or checks. Ocean pollution should be reported about on a higher level because so many people contribute to it without even realizing it. For instance, not recycling plastics, papers, and metals contributes to ocean pollution because regular things in the trash either gets dumped in junkyards on land or floating islands of trash in the ocean. By using material that gets broken down into microplastics is making an impact because we all know where it’s going to end up, but this may not be a problem solved at the general public level since it’s a flawed system embedded in our way of living. My solution to this incident would be to use edible straws to shave a portion of plastic from the ocean. I believe that the production and mandatory use of edible straws would decrease the plastic waste from single use plastic straws that gets broken down into microplastics in the ocean which would reduce ocean pollution. “Conserve Energy Future” lists all the causes of ocean pollution. They include: sewage, which enters the ocean directly, toxic chemicals from Industries, Land Runoff, Large Scale Oil Spills, Ocean Mining, and Littering. Making the effort to replace the plastic to something we know would be disposed of without harming the ocean is a help to the issue because all of the listed factors contain human interference, but the human participation for the advocacy of the depolluting of oceans is very minimal.
Many people believe that it’s not their fault regarding ocean pollution, or any because they’re not intentionally throwing trash and plastic on the floor with the intent to harm the environment or sea life. But as aforementioned, even using plastic is contributing because it’s a material that never breaks down completely and most of its remains end up in the ocean or in junk yards. Also, not advocating against ocean pollution is a form of contributing to it as well because if there aren’t people trying to make a difference and show actual concern for the environment, no changes are going to be accomplished. Another reason for not recycling is always the cost. The cost and time refurbishing used material is too expensive and there is little to no profit in it for clear plastic material. But the cost for a building a new planet is definitely more expensive and time consuming than recycling. So ocean pollution is a combination of a variety of factors. It initiates at the individual level, but other factors such as oil spills and toxic chemical dumps from large companies makes a lot of damage in a little bit of time. Ocean pollution can be defined as anything placed in the ocean environment that is considered harmful, but unpacked, it means so much and is encompassed with many aspects and levels that aren’t always taken into consideration when evaluating ocean pollution.
Liittschwager, D., & Liittschwager, D. (2019, January 18). Jellyfish are the ‘snack food’ of the sea-and that’s a good thing. Retrieved March 11, 2019, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/01/many-ocean-creatures-surprisingly-eat-jellyfish/
US Department of Commerce, & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2016, April 13). What are microplastics? Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html
Causes and Effects of Ocean Pollution That Are Destroying Our Planet. (2019, April 09). Retrieved from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-ocean-pollution.php
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Animals Eat Ocean Plastic Because it Smells Like Food. (2016, November 09). Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/11/animals-eat-ocean-plastic-because-of-smell-dms-algae-seabirds-fish/
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