Ramification of Ocean Pollution

Date: Oct 25, 2018


Human activities have led to the pollution of water bodies, including the Earth’s seas, oceans, lakes, and rivers. The pollution of oceans and other water bodies have ramifications on marine life and the organisms dependent on it. Presently, ocean pollution includes oil spills, accumulation of industrial wastes and toxic materials, and garbage dumping. The continual pollution of oceans and other water bodies will lead to grievous effects on life on Earth. For instance, many sea birds and turtles have died in the process of trying to eat the floating plastic wastes, which suffocate them. Human beings have a responsibility to takes care of oceans because oceans serve as the largest sources of water. Oceans and other water bodies have a significant economic importance due to various human activities, including fishing and tourism, which generate income. This paper will consider the literature review of the ramification of ocean pollution.

Marine Environment

Studies show that offshore gas and oil operations cause negative effects on the marine environment due to pollution (Yann-Huei, 2008, p. 163). Operations lead to the discharge of gases, liquids, and solids into the marine environment. It has been clear that the stages of offshore gas and oil development activities that lead to marine pollution include seismic surveying, rig installation, drilling, hydrocarbon production, and transportation of natural gas and oil over the surface of water. Yann-Huei (2008) found that the production of oil involves numerous human activities, which lead to the discharge of mud, kitchen wastes, wash water, and oil spillages into the ocean. The wastes that human beings discharge into the ocean worsen the quality of water thereby disturbing the marine life significantly. Leakage of oil from the oil vessels can cause a significant effect on the marine life. Studies have shown that vessels contribute a high percentage of the accidental spills across the globe, either through daily operations or catastrophic spills (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 5). A thin layer of oil and petroleum products on the surface of water prevents the entry of oxygen and carbon dioxide into the water body. Therefore, the aquatic organisms, such as fish and other organisms may suffocate and die due to the insufficient amount of oxygen. Oxygen is useful for respiration, which is a vital process in living things. Carbon dioxide is a raw material in the process of photosynthesis during which the green plants make food.

Marine Organisms

A thin film of oil and petroleum products on the surface of water hinders the circulation of gases into and out of water thereby causing death of the marine organisms. The biological decomposition of petroleum products leads to the production of byproducts that can harm wildlife and fish and affect human beings upon consuming the aquatic products. A thin layer of oil and petroleum products over the surface of ocean endangers the lives of seabirds. Studies have shown that oil makes the plumage absorb oil readily thereby decreasing the buoyancy, insulation, and waterproofing ability of the birds, causing death due to starvation or hypothermia (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 7). It has also been evident through research that the oil contains toxic compounds, which living organisms can ingest or inhale. The toxic compounds can cause fatal or debilitating effects because of its affect on the internal organs, such as the brain, liver, and other major organs.

Water Bodies

Human beings can also pollute the marine environment by dumping of the raw sewage sludge into the water bodies, including ocean, lakes, and rivers. Studies show that the sewage sludge introduces bacteria into the marine environment (Payton, 1985, p. 26). The bacteria invade the aquatic organisms and cause abnormalities due to cell mutations and development of diseases, such as the black gill disease among lobsters and rock crabs. Mussels, clams, and oysters accumulate bacteria and traces of heavy metals in the tissues. The bacteria and heavy metals continue to move along the food chain thereby affecting several other organisms. Consumption of the aquatic organisms that have acquired bacteria may cause diseases, which do not respond to antibiotics easily. Studies have shown that the consumption of partially cooked or raw shellfish that has been in contact with the untreated sewage can lead to hepatitis and other viral diseases (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 6). Research has depicted that some organisms, such as phytoplankton, continue to survive in the presence of sewage wastes, which serve as fertilizer (Payton, 1985, p. 30). The sewage sludge contains phosphorus and nitrogen that make the phytoplankton multiply at higher rate than the rate at which the zooplankton can consume them. Therefore, most of the phytoplankton die due to overpopulation and decompose upon sinking to the bottom. Decomposition involves the activity of bacteria, which consume much oxygen for aerobic respiration.

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Dumping of sewage sludge may also cause economic problems. Research has shown that the sludge clogs fishing nets with coarse and fibrous substances that close the mesh (Payton, 1985, p. 30). Clogging of the fishing nets reduces their effectiveness of catching fish thereby reducing the daily catch. The sewage sludge also reduces the quantity of fish because it creates an environment that is unfavorable for the breeding and survival of fish. Sewage sludge affects the tourist industry negatively because it makes water unfit for various tourist activities, such as swimming and bathing. The water that contains sewage sludge has a filthy greenish appearance as a result of the rotting plankton.

Hazardous Waste

Pollution of ocean may also involve the introduction of hazardous waste and solid waste into the water bodies that empty their waters into the ocean. Human beings can also dispose of waste into the ocean directly from the cruise ships that move on the surface of water for several days. Research shows that some of the hazardous wastes discharges into the ocean include batteries, print-shop wastes, dry cleaning sludge, paint waste, and many others (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 7). The toxic substances can hinder reproduction in fish or even kill the fish and other marine organisms thereby reducing the population significantly. Individuals onboard release gray water, which contains food waste, detergents, and grease and oil. A cruise ship that travels for about eight days can release large quantities of gray water to the ocean thereby polluting the marine environment significantly.

Individuals also introduce a variety of solid waste into the ocean from the cruise ships. The solid waste may include glass, plastic, food waste, cardboard, cans, and wood (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 7). Most of the solid waste undergoes incineration onboard and the ashes released to the ocean. The solid waste, such as the floating plastic fragments, has harmful effects on various marine organisms, including fish, mammals, birds, and turtles. The plastic fragments can kill the marine organisms due to ingestion or entanglement. Numerous marine mammals and birds die upon eating the plastic fragments (Katsioloudis, 2010, 7). Therefore, the introduction of hazardous wastes and solid wastes into the ocean will affect the ecosystem in a negative manner due to the death of many marine organisms. The death of marine organisms, especially fish, will in turn affect the economy negatively. Catching of fish is among the tourist activities that attract tourists to promote the local economy. In addition, fishing is an economic activity that human beings do to earn a livelihood.

The Asian haze has been another source of ocean pollution that causes detrimental effects to marine organisms and other organisms that depend upon them (Swing, 2003, p. 144). The haze appears as a brown cloud on the surface of the Indian Ocean. The Asian haze consists of the pollutants from industrial emissions and emissions of burning organic matter, including fossil fuels and wood. Research has shown that the haze has affected the phytoplankton and other marine organisms negatively due to a reduction of solar radiation that reaches the oceans (Swing, 2003, p. 144). Therefore, the population of fish and other marine organisms may reduce significantly due to the reduction of the quantity of phytoplankton. Reduction of marine organisms will affect the ecology of the ocean ecosystem. Fishing and tourism are some of the economic activities that help human beings earn a living. Therefore, the reduction of fish will affect the economy directly.

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In conclusion, ocean pollution has been a common problem that human beings cause due to various activities, including oil exploration, mining of oil, refining of oil, and transportation of oil. Oil is harmful to the marine life because it prevents the entry of oxygen into the water. In addition, oil undergoes biological decomposition into harmful products that poison marine organisms and the consumers of marine organisms. Individuals also pollute the oceans by releasing untreated sewage sludge, hazardous waste and solid waste into the water bodies (Payton, 1985, 26). Pollution of the ocean affects the marine organisms and other organisms, such as human beings and birds of prey, due to the consumption of the sea products. The sewage sludge contains nutrients and harmful microorganisms, especially the bacteria. The nutrients from the sewage sludge increase the growth of phytoplankton, which decomposes in large quantities due to over population. Decomposition of the organic matter leads to the depletion of oxygen in the ocean. The harmful bacteria attack fish, birds, and other organisms, causing diseases. Solid wastes, including plastic fragments, also harm the fish and birds due to ingestion or entanglement (Katsioloudis, 2010, p. 7).

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