The ocean is so vast and deep that we keep discovering new things about this mysterious ecosystem every day.
And even though it’s one of the most diverse and unexplored places on our planet, this ecosystem is also being threatened by human activities. Believe it or not, people thought that dumping rubbish and chemicals in the oceans wouldn’t cause any harm. But, guess what?
Now, we’re facing the consequences of ocean pollution.
Want to understand the magnitude of this problem? Keep reading to discover some shocking plastic pollution statistics and ocean pollution facts. Below, you’ll also learn what marine pollution is and what’s causing it in 2022.
So, let’s jump right in!
Marine pollution is the introduction of toxic chemicals and harmful materials into the ocean. These pollutants end up in the oceans as a result of different human activities and surprisingly, most of them come from land sources!
Keep in mind that ocean pollution refers to a broad range of problems that can disrupt the marine ecosystem. So, there are many types of marine pollution, which we’ll describe later in this article.
Why is Marine Pollution a Problem?
Ocean pollution can change the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the oceans. Even a slight change in these conditions can destroy vulnerable ecosystems, harm marine wildlife, and affect human health. Moreover, marine pollution can also affect coastal communities, tourism, and more!
If you’d like to understand the severity of this problem, check the ocean pollution facts and statics we’ve mentioned below. But first, let’s talk about the main causes of marine pollution.
Main Causes of Ocean Pollution in 2022
According to NOAA, ocean pollution is a combination of pollutants, most of which come from human activities along the coastlines and far inland.
That’s right, most of the waste we produce on land will eventually end up in our oceans, from toxic chemicals and sewage to plastic items. And to make things worse, even our CO2 emissions can pollute the seas and oceans!
Here are some of the major causes of marine pollution:
Non-point Source Pollution (Runoff)
One of the main causes of marine pollution is non-point source pollution, which occurs as a result of runoff. As the water runs along a surface, it picks up toxic substances, like oil left by cars and trucks on the streets. And as you’re probably guessing, these pollutants will end up in lakes, rivers, or the ocean.
The problem is that non-point source pollution can come from many land-based sources, like septic tanks, farms, gardens, livestock ranches, and vehicles.
Oil spills aren’t as common as you might think, but they’re difficult to clean up and can cause devastating effects on marine ecosystems. They’re often caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, and drilling rigs.
Wastewater discharges from industrial sources are another common cause of ocean pollution. But that’s not all, untreated sewage can also pollute our seas and contribute to this problem.
Deep-sea ocean mining is a detrimental practice that affects many marine species, like whales and sharks. And that’s because these activities cause chemical pollution, light pollution, sediment plumes, and noise pollution.
When we burn fossil fuels, we’re not only polluting the air but also affecting our oceans. Besides exacerbating climate change, excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can also make the oceans more acidic. We’ll talk more about this type of marine pollution in a moment.
Littering is one of the biggest problems for our rivers, seas, and oceans.
When we discard lightweight plastics, they can be carried by wind and rain into drainage networks or rivers that then flow into the sea, where they become part of shocking plastic pollution statistics. Likewise, discarded fishing nets can also hurt marine wildlife and contribute to plastic pollution in the ocean.
Effects of Ocean Pollution
Now that you know the main causes of ocean pollution, it’s also important to understand how these problems affect this fragile ecosystem and our lives. So, let’s explore some disturbing marine pollution effects:
- Biodiversity loss
- Depletion of oxygen content in water
- Marine animals get entangled in plastic
- Marine wildlife mistake plastic for prey and die of starvation
- Coastal communities face increased expenditures on beach cleaning
- Marine species that have been exposed to oil may suffer from skin irritation, liver problems, and more
- Exposure to poisonous chemicals can cause failure in the reproductive system of marine animals
- Toxic chemicals become concentrated in the food chain and affect human health
Types of Marine Pollution
As we mentioned before, there are many types of marine pollution affecting our seas. If you’d like to discover what problems are affecting these vulnerable ecosystems, check some of the most common types of ocean pollution:
The problem with plastics is that, unlike other materials, they won’t biodegrade. Instead, they will persist in the environment for hundreds of years, which means plastics will indefinitely pollute our beaches and harm marine life.
Many marine species depend on their sense of hearing to find food, mate, and navigate. Unnatural noises from seismic surveys, sonar devices, shipping, and other human activities can disturb these species.
Light can create a different world for many marine species. This type of ocean pollution can affect how some species communicate, find prey, migrate, and escape predators.
Some man-made pollutants that end up in the oceans and harm this ecosystem include pesticides, herbicides, detergents, petroleum, ingredients in personal care products, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and industrial discharge.
Untreated sewage and agricultural runoff can lead to excess nutrients entering a body of water. In the worst-case scenario, this type of marine pollution can result in “dead zones”, where the oxygen levels are so low that marine life can’t survive in that area.
Some human activities release too much CO2 into the atmosphere and our oceans are absorbing part of those emissions. This makes the oceans more acidic, which changes the whole ecosystem and affects marine life.
10 Shocking Facts about Marine Pollution in 2022
Ocean pollution is a complex problem with some devastating effects on marine habitats and sea animals. To demonstrate the size and severity of this problem, we’ve put together some shocking statistics and facts about marine pollution.
So, let’s dive right in!
Every year, around 8 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans. That’s the equivalent of one truckload of plastic entering the ocean every single minute. And if that’s not enough, it’s estimated that 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic is currently found in our oceans!
Although some debris is dumped directly into the seas, it’s estimated that roughly 80% of the items found in the ocean come from land-based sources.
The 5 most common items found in ocean pollution clean-ups are single-use products: cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, bottle caps, and grocery bags.
Plastic pollution in the oceans kills over 100,000 marine mammals, like dolphins and sea lions, and more than one million sea birds every year!
There are over 500 locations recorded as dead zones around the world, these are areas of such low oxygen concentration that marine life suffocates and dies.
Oil can be more harmful to marine life than waste. But despite what many people think, oil spills only contribute to 12% of the oil in the oceans. Here’s the shocking part: most oil causing harm in the ocean is a result of drainage from land!
Roughly 80% of ocean plastic pollution comes from just 20 countries. In fact, China and Indonesia are the world’s biggest contributors to plastic pollution in the ocean. Together, they account for one-third of plastic pollution!
There is an “island of garbage” three times the size of France inside the Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. These plastics can be found from the surface of the ocean all the way to the ocean floor.
Pollutants and microplastics can also affect our health. Let’s remember that heavy metals and other pollutants can accumulate in marine wildlife, which means people can get contaminated easily by eating contaminated seafood.
Marine pollution is one of the many environmental problems that our planet is currently facing in 2022. Although the ocean is vast, it’s also a fragile ecosystem. Yet, that’s where most of our environmental pollution ends up, from plastic waste and untreated sewage to radioactive waste!
That’s why it’s important to spread the word about ocean pollution causes, prevent plastic pollution, reduce our carbon footprint, and demand responsible actions from industries.