Oceans in Peril

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I personally care a lot about the oceans and marine life because of my experiences with them. In California, where I live, the beautiful Pacific Ocean along with the many beaches and spectacular coastal scenery attract people from all over the world. It was therefore rather sad for me to realize that this beauty of the ocean that we all take for granted is actually under threat from our own actions. One beach in Santa Cruz had the most polluted water on the West Coast. It had bacteria levels well over state standards, partly due to sewer problems and contamination by human feces. I have visited this beach myself, and it is hard for me to believe that it could be so polluted. Another beach I have enjoyed many times with my family, the Capitola beach, appeared as number 9 for most polluted water in 2014. Some of the pollution problems can be traced to sewer and drain problems, but many are due to runoff, or nonpoint source pollution. In addition, beachgoers have also been littering a lot on the beach (1). I can’t believe that we have treated the oceans like this, which is why I believe in stopping nonpoint source marine pollution.


One of the biggest causes of ocean pollution in the world is nonpoint source pollution. This type of pollution occurs as a result of runoff. This happens when rain or melted snow moves over the ground, and the water absorbs any pollutants it comes into contact with (2). The water can pick up many sources of pollution such as oil left behind by cars. In fact, each day, oil is dropped by millions of vehicles onto roads and parking lots (3). The water can also pick up fertilizers and pesticides used in farming, as well as other toxics (4). This contaminated water then flows into streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans, polluting water sources all over the world (2).


Pietro Parravano, the president of the San Francisco Institute for Fisheries Resources and a local fisherman, said in an interview, “Any type of runoff from the land ends up in the oceans, and it ends up in the ecosystems of the oceans. It affects the entire food chains of the oceans. That will have a devastating affect on the ability of fish to survive.” This quote shows the long-term effects of nonpoint source pollution, and why it is so important for us to stop it.


Nonpoint source pollution has many effects on our planet. The Environmental Protection Agency now considers nonpoint source pollution to be the major cause of water quality issues in the United States. Nonpoint source pollution is the reason that over 40 percent of the United State’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries are not clean enough for swimming or fishing. Nonpoint source pollution not only contaminates marine food webs with toxic chemicals, but also causes the destruction of coral reefs and sea grass beds by siltation (pollution of water by clastic material). Moreover, nonpoint source pollution makes river and ocean water unsafe for humans and other wildlife.  It also affects the beauty and health of coastal lands and waters, causing less people to want to visit beaches and oceans. This makes it so that beaches and oceans can no longer give us the enjoyment they have provided us with for a long time. In addition, nonpoint source pollution can even cause human illness through contaminated beach water or the consumption of seafood (5).


More importantly, nonpoint source pollution has a negative effect on marine life. The contaminated water that flows into oceans during runoff contains an excess amount of nutrients. Too many nutrients cause algal blooms, or large mounts of algae, that use up oxygen. This makes the oxygen unavailable to fish and shellfish, which cause them to suffocate and die. The algae also cloud the water and coats underwater plants, cutting off the flow of sunlight that this marine life really needs (6).


An example of these algal blooms occurred along the California Coast late last year. This invasive species was one of the worst ever recorded on this coast. This toxic algae bloom damaged the West Coast’s fishing industry. The main victims of the algae bloom were crabs, specifically the Dungeness crab. The toxin produced by the algae got into the tissues of the Dungeness crab. This toxin can cause serious illnesses for humans. This example shows how nonpoint source pollution is a slippery slope. Runoff brings too many nutrients into the ocean, causing algal blooms. Algal blooms hurt crabs. This causes, in turn, a delay in the crab fishing season (7). In the end, fishermen, people who like to eat crabs, and crabs, all get negatively affected.


Another problem caused by nonpoint source pollution involves the food chain in the ocean. When one animal in the food chain grows or lessens in size, the whole food chain changes. For example, if the crabs started to die out due to nonpoint source pollution, animals that ate the crabs wouldn’t have enough food to eat, and would also start dying out. Moreover, animals that the crab used to eat would begin to have a larger population, with nothing eating them. Therefore, the whole food chain and animal populations in the ocean would become unbalanced, because of nonpoint source pollution.


A final issue that should be brought to people’s awareness is the mission of PPC. PPC (Plastic Pollution Coalition) is an organization that fights against plastic pollution. Plastic is a durable material that can remain in the environment for over 2,000 years. Americans discard more than 20 million tons of plastic every year, and only 8 percent of that gets recycled. The other plastic ends up in landfills or gets littered. In landfills, plastic leachate, which is full of toxic chemicals caused by the plastic, flows into lakes and rivers, polluting water sources. This plastic has many affects on everyone. For example, plankton absorbs the toxins of micro plastics. The substance also gets rid of algae that other animals need to eat. Chemicals from the plastic can also get into the blood and tissue of humans, causing diseases such as cancer, and birth defects. Discarded plastic can also attract other pollutants. Furthermore, plastic debris can crowd up animals’ living spaces, such as zooplankton, causing disruption in the lives of animals. A final problem caused by plastic pollution is how it costs billions of dollars to subside. Clearly, plastic pollution is an issue that must be dealt with, so we should all try to reuse plastic and dispose of plastic properly (8).


I believe that marine life should not be dying out due to problems we have caused. Many experts are trying to stop nonpoint source pollution, but I think we can all help. The fish and other sea life out in our oceans don’t deserve to live through nonpoint source pollution. To stop it, we can do many things. We can dispose of oil and household chemicals properly. We can do this by maintaining vehicles and never pouring any materials down a drain that could contaminate water. We can also try and keep fertile soil on farms. Another thing that many of us can do is pick up our pet waste. Pet waste contributes to nonpoint source pollution. We also need to use fertilizer wisely when gardening. Fertilizer low in phosphorous will not contaminate water as much. Lastly, we can give water more places to go, other than runoff. We can connect rain barrels to our downspouts and plant a rain garden, which will catch excess water that flows across our yards (9). Something very easy that many of us can do is to stop littering. Littering also contributes to ocean pollution and runoff. Other things that help in the fight against nonpoint source pollution are keeping debris, leaves, and other objects out of street gutters and drains to prevent outlet into lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and other wetlands. Although some of these things may seem very little, something small can have a huge impact on our world, if everyone contributes. For many people, ocean pollution is a topic that goes in one ear and comes out the other. They think that since it doesn’t involve them, why care? In reality, it involves all of us. We as a species have caused ocean pollution, now is our chance to make a difference by reversing it. It really isn’t that hard if everyone contributes. If every person across the world tried some of these tips, we could help stop nonpoint source pollution.


Ian Rankin once said, “You wouldn’t think you could kill an ocean, would you? But we’ll do it one day. That’s how negligent we are.” To me, this is not just a statement, a quote, but a call to action. We must start to care about the oceans and suffering marine life. We are the ones who can prevent the “death” of oceans. This is why we must try to stop nonpoint source pollution. I believe everyone is capable of helping to not only keep our beaches and oceans safe and clean, but also in helping the marine life in our oceans survive.






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