The oceans covers 71% of the surface of our beautiful planet, and is home to the phytoplankton that generate 50% of the oxygen we breathe.
So it’s extraordinary to think that this massive area, and the diversity of life it holds, can possibly be threatened by the actions of humans on the less than 30% of our earth that is land. But that’s exactly what has happened.
80% of marine pollution comes from land: agricultural runoff, discharge of pesticides, and untreated sewage including plastics. There are now over 500 dead zones, covering more than 245,000 km², where marine life can’t survive.
- 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.
- 13% of global fisheries have collapsed due to commercial overfishing.
- Coral reefs around the world are dying from increased ocean acidity due to carbon emissions, which has affected some species’ ability to reproduce.
- Manipulation of coastal areas—from agricultural practices, tourism, port and harbour developments, river damming, urban development, mining, fisheries, aquaculture, and manufacturing—threatens coastal and marine habitats.
- The United Nations Environment Programme estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. This debris causes the deaths of over a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year (2006).
- Plastic and other litter get trapped in five gyres (whirlpools created by rotating wind and ocean currents). The largest—the North Pacific Gyre, between California and Hawaii—holds an estimated 11 million tons (and growing) of floating plastic.
Plastic is Forever
When you wake up in the morning, chances are you hit a plastic alarm clock, brush with a plastic toothbrush, squeeze shampoo from a plastic tube, and boil water for your coffee in a plastic kettle. You get into a plastic car, work on a plastic computer, sit on a plastic chair, and eat your lunch out of a plastic container. You watch a plastic TV, as your child plays with plastic toys that came in a plastic package. You carry your shopping home in a plastic bag—and then throw it away. All that plastic will be here long, long after you are gone.
Face to Fish
Microbeads are tiny little rounds of polypropylene and polyethylene in toothpaste, body wash, and facial scrub. Just one tube of face wash can contain 330,000 microbeads! They wash down your drain, through sewer systems, and into rivers and oceans—millions and trillions and gazillions of them. Fish eat them, and the toxins they carry—and we, in turn, eat the fish.
Do Your Part
Spend time on or by the ocean to deepen your appreciation and wonder. If you care about it, you’ll care for it.
Choose ocean-friendly seafood
Extinguish butts, and dispose of in a garbage can.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Never litter, or pour bleach, motor oil, or other chemicals down the drain.
Cut six-pack rings open as they can trap marine life.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Walk, bike, take transit, eat organic food, and use energy-efficient appliances.
Green House, Green Gardens
Choose eco-friendly organic cleaning products and fertilizers.
Buy soaps and cleaners in refillable bottles.
Do No Harm
Be whale wise, and never feed or pet marine life.
Leave shells on the shore, and don’t buy coral jewelry, tortoiseshell accessories, or shark products.
Ask retailers and restaurants to offer alternatives to plastic containers, straws, and stir sticks.
Volunteer to clean up a shoreline.
Support bans on plastic bags and polystyrene.
This article was published in The Good Life magazine.