Over the past 60 years, human activity has greatly impacted our oceans. Oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural waste, and chemical particles are having severe effects on marine life. The introduction of harmful contaminants is yielding devastating environmental results. We’re witnessing the physical buildup of trash islands and the consequences unleashed on the poor animals caught in the worst of it—we have to take a close look at what we can do to stop things before it’s too late.
There’s a great deal of pollutants that damage marine life, and oil is one of the most notable. The spills from offshore drilling play a part, as does the millions of gallons of oil dumped into the world’s oceans every year from other sources. There are several factors that make oil so dangerous to animals. Oil on certain mammals or birds can damage their fur or feathers, impeding their ability to fly or move, maintain body temperature, or even feed. It can contaminate nesting areas and feeding grounds, and can easily poison any animal. Long-term exposure destroys fish and shellfish, leading to organ damage, reduced growth, and reduced respiration, and can negatively impact reproduction and larva development and survival. Oil also devastates coral reefs, which are home to countless sea creatures. Oil clogs up the gills of the fish that live there, suffocating them. It can also prevent marine plants from using light for photosynthesis, destroying the food chain.
Other Toxic Pollutants and Environmental Hazards
Sewage waste, pesticides, air emissions, plutonium processing, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear submarines and household cleaning products play a role in the destruction of marine life. Trash and other debris like plastic bags, balloons, medical waste, soda cans, and milk cartons end up in the ocean or float up on the beaches, causing harm to so many innocent creatures. We’ve all seen the videos: They get entangled in old nets and drown, or ingest plastic items which clog up their digestive systems, or even end up strangled by plastic. These items can also ruin breeding grounds and other habitats, killing marine plants and eventually altering entire ecosystems.
The actual tally of the damage done and the damage we continue to do is incalculable. We know how bad it is, but not to a precise degree. One thing everyone can agree on is that if we don’t do something about it soon, it won’t just be marine life that’s in trouble.
The good news in all of this is that the research conducted by marine biologists and environmentalists is making a huge difference. There’s no easy fix here, but there are places out there that are working to help. If you want to be a part of the movement, you can check out some great conservation volunteer programs such as www.volunteerworld.com.
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