Marine pollution.

Marine pollution is a combination of chemicals and trash, most of which comes from land sources and is washed or blown into the ocean. This pollution results in damage to the environment, to the health of all organisms, and to economic structures worldwide.

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Oceanography

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Morgan Stanley

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  • Marine Pollution (Google Doc)

Marine pollution is a growing problem in today’s world. Our ocean is being flooded with two main types of pollution: chemicals and trash.

Chemical contamination, or nutrient pollution, is concerning for health, environmental, and economic reasons. This type of pollution occurs when human activities, notably the use of fertilizer on farms, lead to the runoff of chemicals into waterways that ultimately flow into the ocean. The increased concentration of chemicals, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, in the coastal ocean promotes the growth of algal blooms , which can be toxic to wildlife and harmful to humans. The negative effects on health and the environment caused by algal blooms hurt local fishing and tourism industries.

Marine trash encompasses all manufactured products—most of them plastic —that end up in the ocean. Littering, storm winds, and poor waste management all contribute to the accumulation of this debris , 80 percent of which comes from sources on land. Common types of marine debris include various plastic items like shopping bags and beverage bottles, along with cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and fishing gear. Plastic waste is particularly problematic as a pollutant because it is so long-lasting. Plastic items can take hundreds of years to decompose.

This trash poses dangers to both humans and animals. Fish become tangled and injured in the debris , and some animals mistake items like plastic bags for food and eat them. Small organisms feed on tiny bits of broken-down plastic , called micro plastic , and absorb the chemicals from the plastic into their tissues. Micro plastics are less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter and have been detected in a range of marine species, including plankton and whales. When small organisms that consume micro plastics are eaten by larger animals, the toxic chemicals then become part of their tissues. In this way, the micro plastic pollution migrates up the food chain , eventually becoming part of the food that humans eat.

Solutions for marine pollution include prevention and cleanup. Disposable and single-use plastic is abundantly used in today’s society, from shopping bags to shipping packaging to plastic bottles. Changing society’s approach to plastic use will be a long and economically challenging process. Cleanup, in contrast, may be impossible for some items. Many types of debris (including some plastics ) do not float, so they are lost deep in the ocean. Plastics that do float tend to collect in large “patches” in ocean gyres. The Pacific Garbage Patch is one example of such a collection, with plastics and micro plastics floating on and below the surface of swirling ocean currents between California and Hawaii in an area of about 1.6 million square kilometers (617,763 square miles), although its size is not fixed. These patches are less like islands of trash and, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, more like flecks of micro plastic pepper swirling around an ocean soup. Even some promising solutions are inadequate for combating marine pollution. So-called “ biodegradable ” plastics often break down only at temperatures higher than will ever be reached in the ocean.

Nonetheless, many countries are taking action. According to a 2018 report from the United Nations, more than sixty countries have enacted regulations to limit or ban the use of disposable plastic items. The National Geographic Society is making this content available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA license . The License excludes the National Geographic Logo (meaning the words National Geographic + the Yellow Border Logo) and any images that are included as part of each content piece. For clarity the Logo and images may not be removed, altered, or changed in any way.

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Cleaner seas: reducing marine pollution

Kathryn a. willis.

1 Centre for Marine Sociology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS Australia

2 CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Hobart, TAS Australia

5 School of Social Sciences, College of Arts, Law and Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS Australia

Catarina Serra-Gonçalves

3 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS Australia

Kelsey Richardson

Qamar a. schuyler, halfdan pedersen.

8 Pikkoritta Consult, Aasiaat, Greenland

Kelli Anderson

4 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Fisheries and Aquaculture, University of Tasmania, Newnham, TAS Australia

Jonathan S. Stark

7 Australian Antarctic Division, Hobart, TAS Australia

Joanna Vince

Britta d. hardesty, chris wilcox, barbara f. nowak, jennifer l. lavers, jayson m. semmens, dean greeno.

6 School of Creative Arts and Media, College of Arts, Law and Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS Australia

Catriona MacLeod

Nunnoq p. o. frederiksen.

9 The PISUNA Project, Qeqertalik Municipality, Attu, Greenland

10 Snowchange Cooperative, Selkie, Finland

Peter S. Puskic

Associated data.

In the age of the Anthropocene, the ocean has typically been viewed as a sink for pollution. Pollution is varied, ranging from human-made plastics and pharmaceutical compounds, to human-altered abiotic factors, such as sediment and nutrient runoff. As global population, wealth and resource consumption continue to grow, so too does the amount of potential pollution produced. This presents us with a grand challenge which requires interdisciplinary knowledge to solve. There is sufficient data on the human health, social, economic, and environmental risks of marine pollution, resulting in increased awareness and motivation to address this global challenge, however a significant lag exists when implementing strategies to address this issue. This review draws upon the expertise of 17 experts from the fields of social sciences, marine science, visual arts, and Traditional and First Nations Knowledge Holders to present two futures; the Business-As-Usual, based on current trends and observations of growing marine pollution, and a More Sustainable Future, which imagines what our ocean could look like if we implemented current knowledge and technologies. We identify priority actions that governments, industry and consumers can implement at pollution sources, vectors and sinks, over the next decade to reduce marine pollution and steer us towards the More Sustainable Future.

Graphic abstract

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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11160-021-09674-8.


The ocean has historically been a sink for pollution, leaving modern society with significant ocean pollution legacy issues to manage (Elliott and Elliott 2013 ; O'Shea et al. 2018 ). People continue to pollute the ocean at increasing rates creating further damage to marine ecosystems. This results in detrimental impacts on livelihoods, food security, marine navigation, wildlife and well-being, among others (Krushelnytska 2018 ; Lebreton and Andrady 2019 ; Nichols 2014 ; Seitzinger et al. 2002 ). As pollution presents a multitude of stressors for ocean life, it cannot be explored in isolation (Khan et al., 2018 ). Thus, global coordinated efforts are essential to manage the current and future state of the ocean and to minimise further damage from pollution (Krushelnytska 2018 ; Macleod et al. 2016 ; O'Brien et al. 2019 ; Williams et al. 2015 ). Efforts are also needed to tackle key questions, such as how do pollutants function in different environments, and interact with each other?

Pollution can be broadly defined as any natural or human-derived substance or energy that is introduced into the environment by humans and that can have a detrimental effect on living organisms and natural environments (UNEP 1982 ). Pollutants, including light and sound in addition to the more commonly recognised forms, can enter the marine environment from a multitude of sources and transport mechanisms (Carroll et al. 2017 ; Depledge et al. 2010 ; Longcore and Rich 2004 ; Williams et al. 2015 ). These may include long range atmospheric movement (Amunsen et al. 1992 ) and transport from inland waterways (Lebreton et al. 2017 ).

Current pollutant concentrations in the marine environment are expected to continue increasing with growth in both global population and product production. For example, global plastic production increased by 13 million tonnes in a single year (PlasticsEurope 2018 ), with rising oceanic plastic linked to such trends (Wilcox et al. 2020 ). Pharmaceutical pollution is predicted to increase with population growth, resulting in a greater range of chemicals entering the ocean through stormwater drains and rivers (Bernhardt et al. 2017 ; Rzymski et al. 2017 ). Additionally, each year new chemical compounds are produced whose impacts on the marine environment are untested (Landrigan et al. 2018 ).

Marine pollution harms organisms throughout the food-web in diverse ways. Trace amounts of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in organisms have the capacity to cause physiological harm (Capaldo et al. 2018 ; Hoffman et al. 2011 ; Salamat et al. 2014 ) and alter behaviours (Brodin et al. 2014 ; Mattsson et al. 2017 ). Artificial lights along coasts at night can disrupt organism navigation, predation and vertical migration (Depledge et al. 2010 ). Pharmaceutical pollutants, such as contraceptive drugs, have induced reproductive failure and sex changes in a range of fish species (Lange et al. 2011 ; Nash et al. 2004 ). Furthermore, some pollutants also have the capacity to bioaccumulate, which means they may become more concentrated in higher trophic marine species (Bustamante et al. 1998 ; Eagles-Smith et al. 2009 ).

Pollution also poses a huge economic risk. Typically, the majority of consequences from pollution disproportionately impact poorer nations who have less resources to manage and remediate these impacts (Alario and Freudenburg 2010 ; Beaumont et al. 2019 ; Golden et al. 2016 ; Landrigan et al. 2018 ). Marine pollution can negatively impact coastal tourism (Jang et al. 2014 ), waterfront real estate (Ofiara and Seneca 2006 ), shipping (Moore 2018 ) and fisheries (Hong et al. 2017 ; Uhrin 2016 ). Contamination of seafood poses a perceived risk to human health, but also results in a significant financial cost for producers and communities (Ofiara and Seneca 2006 ; White et al. 2000 ). Additionally, current remediation strategies for most pollutants in marine and coastal ecosystems are costly, time consuming and may not prove viable in global contexts (Ryan and Jewitt 1996 ; Smith et al. 1997 ; Uhrin 2016 ).

Reducing marine pollution is a global challenge that needs to be addressed for the health of the ocean and the communities and industries it supports. The United Nations proposed and adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to guide future developments and intended to be achieved by 2030. It has flagged the reduction of marine pollution as a key issue underpinning the achievement of SDG 14, Life Under Water, with target 14.1 defined as “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution” by 2025 (United Nations General Assembly 2015 ). In the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021–2030), one of the six ocean outcomes relates specifically to the identification and reduction of marine pollution (A Clean Ocean; UN DOS SD). The task of reducing marine pollution is daunting—the ocean is so vast that cleaning it seems almost impossible. However, effective management of pollution at its source is a successful way to reduce it and protect the ocean (DeGeorges et al. 2010 ; Rochman 2016 ; Simmonds et al. 2014 ; Zhu et al. 2008 ). Strategies, implemented locally, nationally and globally, to prevent, or considerably reduce pollution inputs in combination with removing pollutants from the marine environment (Sherman and van Sebille 2016 ) will allow healthy ocean life and processes to continue into the future. However, such strategies need to be implemented on a collective global scale, and target pollution at key intervals from their creation to their use and disposal.

To help explain how society can most effectively address pollution sources and clean the ocean, we depict two different future seas scenarios by 2030. The first is a Business-As-Usual scenario, where society continues to adhere to current management and global trends. The second is a technically achievable, more sustainable future that is congruent with the SDGs, and where society actively take actions and adopt sustainable solutions. We then explore pollution in three ‘zones’ of action; at the source(s), along the way, and at sink, in the context of river or estuarine systems, as water-transported pollution is commonly associated with urban centres alongside river systems (Alongi and McKinnon 2005 ; Lebreton et al. 2017 ; Lohmann et al. 2012 ; Seitzinger and Mayorga 2016 ).

As a group of interdisciplinary scientists, with expertise in marine pollution, we participated in the Future Seas project ( www.FutureSeas2030.org ), which identified marine pollution as one of 12 grand challenges, and followed the method outlined in Nash et al. ( 2021 ). The process involved a structured discussion to explore the direction of marine social-ecological systems over the course of the UN Decade of Ocean Science, specific to marine pollution. The discussion resulted in developing two alternate future scenarios of marine pollution, a ‘Business-As-Usual’ future that is the current trajectory based on published evidence, and a ‘more sustainable’ future that is technically achievable using existing and emerging knowledge and is consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. To ensure a wide range of world views were present in the future scenarios, Indigenous Leaders and Traditional Knowledge Holders from around the world came together and presented their views, experiences and identified their priorities to remove and reduce marine pollution (Nash et al. 2021 ; Fischer et al. 2020 ).

We defined the scope of our paper by identifying key pollutant sources, types and drivers of marine pollution (Table ​ (Table1 1 for pollutant sources and types; see " Future Narratives " below). We then developed a list of feasible actions that could drive the current state of the ocean towards a cleaner, more sustainable future (Supplementary Table 1). From these actions we deliberated as a group and identified ten actions that have high potential to be implemented within the next decade and significantly reduce marine pollution (Fig.  1 ). The linkages between our ten priority actions and the SDGs are outlined in Supplementary Table 2.

A list of the three major sources of marine pollution and examples of the key types of pollution from each

source considered in our future scenarios. * denotes a pollutant that is outside the scope of this paper

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Ten actions that can substantially reduce the amount of pollution entering the marine environment. Actions are placed along the system where they could have the greatest impact at reducing pollution: at the

source of the pollutant (at the source), once the pollutant is released (along the way), once the pollutant has entered the ocean (at the sink) or at multiple points along the system (bottom arrow). * indicates actions that could be successfully implemented well before the next decade to significantly reduce pollution

Future narratives

We identified three broad sources of marine pollution: land-based industry, sea-based industry, and municipal-based sources and the most significant types of pollution characteristic of each source (Table ​ (Table1). 1 ). We framed our two contrasting future scenarios (Business-As-Usual and a technically feasible sustainable future), around these pollutants and their sources (Table ​ (Table2). 2 ). In addition to these future narratives, we reflect on the present impacts that pollution is currently having on the livelihoods and cultures of First Nations peoples and Traditional Knowledge Holders. We include the narratives of the palawa pakana people, from lutruwita/Tasmania (Table ​ (Table3), 3 ), and the Greenlandic Inuit people (Table ​ (Table4 4 ).

The method resulted in two futures, which focus on pollutants outlined in Table ​ Table1. 1 . The two futures are told here in a narrative format. The Business-As-Usual (BAU) future has been informed by current trends and predictions in marine pollution. The technically feasible sustainable future imagines what the future may be like should we implement the actions outlined in this paper

In lutruwita (Tasmania), Marineer Shell ( Phasianotrochus rutilus ) necklace making is a palawa pakana traditional practice that has continued over thousands of years. Shell-necklaces were once crafted as jewellery and used for trade purposes. King, Queen and standard marineers were not just palawa nicknames handed down through generations, status was allocated to each of the marineer species and the resulting necklaces. Necklaces were reflective of the status allocated to the owner from the creator, and clan as a whole. Here, Elder and shell-necklace maker, Lola Greeno, shares her account of the current impacts of pollution on her art and culture. (Photo credit: Dean Greeno)

Pollution disproportionally impacts first nations people. To the Inuit Greenland peoples, pollution from the Outer World presents a vast array of challenges. Documented here is a firsthand account of some types of pollutants in Greenland and impacts these have on Inuit communities. We have the capacity to influence pollution impacts on a local scale, but we require political efforts, legislation, and global change to make positive impacts in communities and environments in need. (Photo credit: Jonathan Stark)

We identified three key drivers that will substantially contribute to an increasingly polluted ocean if no actions are taken to intervene; societal behaviours, equity and access to technologies, and governance and policy. Alternatively, these pollution drivers can be viewed as opportunities to implement strategic measures that shift the trajectory from a polluted marine environment to a healthier marine environment. Below we highlight how current societal behaviours, lack of implementation of technological advancements, and ocean governance and policy making contribute to an increasingly polluted ocean and drive society towards a BAU future (Table ​ (Table2). 2 ). Importantly, we discuss how changes in these behaviours, and improvements in technologies and governance can lead to reduced marine pollution, ultimately driving a cleaner, more sustainable ocean for the future.

Societal behaviour

Societal behaviours that drive increasing pollution in the world’s ocean.

A consumer culture that prioritizes linear production and consumption of cheap, single-use materials and products over circular product design and use (such as, reusable products or products that are made from recycled material), ultimately drives the increased creation of materials. Current production culture is often aligned with little consideration for the socioeconomic and environmental externalities associated with the pollution that is generated from a product’s creation to its disposal (Foltete et al. 2011 ; Schnurr et al. 2018 ). Without a dedicated management strategy for the fate of products after they have met their varying, often single-use objectives, these materials will enter and accumulate in the surrounding environment as pollution (Krushelnytska 2018 ; Sun et al. 2012 ). Three examples of unsustainable social behaviours that lead to products and materials ending up as marine pollution are: (1) the design and creation of products that are inherently polluting. For example, agricultural chemicals or microplastics and chemicals in personal care and cosmetic products. (2) social behaviours that normalize and encourage consumption of single-use products and materials. For example, individually wrapped vegetables or take-away food containers. (3) low awareness of the impacts and consequences and therefore the normalization of polluting behaviours. For example, noise generation by ships at sea (Hildebrand 2009 ) or the large application of fertilizers to agricultural products (Sun et al. 2012 ).

Shifting societal behaviours towards sustainable production and consumption

A cleaner ocean with reduced pollution will require a shift in production practices across a wide array of industries, as well as a shift in consumer behaviour. Presently, consumers and industry alike are seeking science-based information to inform decision making (Englehardt 1994 ; Vergragt et al. 2016 ). Consumers have the power to demand change from industries through purchasing power and social license to operate (Saeed et al. 2019 ). Policymakers have the power to enforce change from industries through regulations and reporting. Aligning the values between producers, consumers and policymakers will ensure best practices of sustainable consumption and production are adopted (Huntington 2017 ; Moktadir et al. 2018 ; Mont and Plepys 2008 ). Improved understanding of the full life cycle of costs, consequences (including internalised externalities, such as the polluter-pays-principle (Schwartz 2018 )), materials used, and pollution potential of products could substantially shift the trajectory in both production and consumerism towards cleaner, more sustainable seas (Grappi et al. 2017 ; Liu et al. 2016 ; Lorek and Spangenberg 2014 ; Sun et al. 2012 ). For example, economic policy instruments (Abbott and Sumaila 2019 ), production transparency (Joakim Larsson and Fick 2009 ), recirculation of materials (Michael 1998 ; Sharma and Henriques 2005 ), and changes in supply-chains (Ouardighi et al. 2016 ) are some of the ways production and consumerism could become more sustainable and result in a cleaner ocean.

Equity and access to technologies

Inequitable access to available technologies.

Despite major advancements in technology and innovation for waste management, much of the current waste infrastructure implemented around the world is outdated, underutilised, or abandoned. This is particularly the case for rapidly developing countries with large populations who have not had access to waste reduction and mitigation technologies and systems employed in upper income countries (Velis 2014 ; Wilson et al. 2015 ). The informal recycling sector (IRS) performs the critical waste management role in many of the world’s most populous countries.

Harnessing technologies for today and the future

Arguably, in today’s world we see an unprecedented number and types of technological advances stemming from but not limited to seismic exploration (Malehmir et al. 2012 ), resource mining (Jennings and Revill 2007 ; Kampmann et al. 2018 ; Parker et al. 2016 ), product movement (Goodchild and Toy 2018 ; Tournadre 2014 ) and product manufacturing (Bennett 2013 ; Mahalik and Nambiar 2010 ). Applying long term vision rather than short term economic gain could include supporting technologies and innovations that provide substantial improvements over Business-As-Usual. For example, supporting businesses or industries that improve recyclability of products (Umeda et al. 2013 ; Yang et al. 2014 ), utilize waste (Korhonen et al. 2018 ; Pan et al. 2015 ), reduce noise (Simmonds et al. 2014 ), and increase overall production efficiency will substantially increase the health of the global ocean. Efforts should be made wherever possible to maintain current waste management infrastructure where proven and effective, in addition to ensuring reliance and durability of new technologies and innovations for improved lifespan and end of life product management. Consumer demand, taxation, and incentives will play a necessary roll to ensure the appropriate technologies are adopted (Ando and Freitas 2011 ; Krass et al. 2013 ).

Governance and policy

Lack of ocean governance and policy making.

The governance arrangements that address marine pollution on global, regional, and national levels are complex and multifaceted. Success requires hard-to-achieve integrated responses. In addition to the equity challenges discussed in Alexander et al. ( 2020 ) which highlight the need for reduced inequity to improve the susatinability of the marine enviornemnt, we highlight that land-based waste is the largest contributor to marine pollution and therefore requires governance and policies that focus on pollution at the source. Current regulations, laws and policies do not always reflect or address the grand challenge of reducing marine pollution at the source. The ocean has traditionally been governed through sectoral approaches such as fisheries, tourism, offshore oil and mining. Unfortunately, this sector approach has caused policy overlap, conflict, inefficiencies and inconsistencies regarding marine pollution governance (Haward 2018 ; Vince and Hardesty 2016 ). Although production, manufacturing, and polluting may largely take place under geo-political boundaries, pollution in the high seas is often hard to assign to a country of origin. This makes identifying and convicting polluters very difficult (Urbina 2019 ). For example, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) has been criticised as ineffective in reducing marine pollution, largely due to the lack of easily monitoring, identifying and convicting offenders (Henderson 2001 ; Mattson 2006 ).

Harnessing ocean governance and policy

Binding domestic policies and international agreements are regulatory levers that can drive change at local, community, state, federal and international scales (Vince and Hardesty 2018 ). The UN Law of the Sea Convention Part XII (articles 192–237) is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the marine environment and marine pollution is addressed in article 194. It also sets out the responsibilities of states and necessary measures they need to undertake to minimise pollution their own and other jurisdictions. While the Law of the Sea recognises the differences between sea-based and land-based pollution, it does not address the type of pollutants and technical rules in detail. Voluntary measures including MARPOL 73/78 (IMO 1978 ), United Nations Environment Assembly resolutions (UNEA 2019 ) and the FAO voluntary guidelines for the marking of fishing gear (FAO 2019 ), already exist in an attempt to reduce specific components of marine pollution. However, the health of marine ecosystems would benefit from multilateral international or regional agreements that minimise the production of items or the use of processes that result in high levels of marine ecosystem harm. For example, international regulation for underwater sound (McCarthy 2004 ), policies to reduce waste emissions (Nie 2012 ) and the polluter pays principle (Gaines 1991 ) are policies and agreements that could minimise pollutants entering the marine ecosystem. Global and regional governance can create a favourable context for national policy action. Policies that adapt to shifts in climate and are guided by science and indigenous knowledge could be more likely to succeed (Ban et al. 2020 ).

Actions to achieve a more sustainable future

The grand challenge of reducing ocean pollution can seem overwhelming. However, there are myriad actions, interventions and activities which are highly feasible to implement within the next decade to rapidly reduce the quantity of pollution entering the ocean. Implementing these actions requires collaboration among policymakers, industry, and consumers alike. To reduce pollution from sea-based industries, land-based industries and municipal-based pollutants (Table ​ (Table1), 1 ), we encourage the global community to consider three ‘zones’ of action or areas to implement change: at the source(s), along the way/along the supply chain, and at sinks (Fig.  1 ). It is important to highlight that action cannot be implemented at any one zone only. For example, repeated clean ups at the sink may reduce pollution in an area for a time, but will not stem the flow of pollutants. Rather, action at all three zones is required if rapid, effective reductions of ocean pollution are to occur.

Actions at the source(s)

Reducing pollution at its multitude of sources is the most effective way to reduce and prevent marine pollution. This is true for land-based industry pollutants, sea-based industry pollutants and municipal-based pollutants. An example for each includes; reduction in fertilizer leading to less agricultural runoff in coastal waters (Bennett et al. 2001 ), changes in packaging materials may see reductions in production on a per item basis, and a lowered frequency and timing of seismic blasting would result in a decrease in underwater noise pollution at the source. The benefits of acting at the source are powerful: if a pollutant is not developed or used initially, it cannot enter the marine environment. Action can occur at the source using various approaches such as; prevention of contaminants, outreach campaigns, introduction of bans (or prohibitions) and incentives and the replacement of technologies and products for less impactful alternatives (Fig.  1 ). However, achieving public support abrupt and major changes can be difficult and time consuming. Such changes may meet resistance (e.g. stopping or changing seismic testing) and there are other factors beyond marine pollution that must be considered (e.g. health and safety of coastal lighting in communities may be considered more important than impacts of light pollution on nearby marine ecosystems). Actions such as outreach and education campaigns (Supplementary Table 2) will be an important pathway to achieve public support.

Actions along the way

Reducing marine pollution along the way requires implementation of approaches aimed at reducing pollution once it has been released from the source and is in transit to the marine environment (Fig.  1 ). Acting along the way does provide the opportunity to target particular pollutants (point-source pollution) which can be particularly effective in reducing those pollutants. While municipal-based pollutants can be reduced ‘along the way’ using infrastructure such as gross pollutant traps (GPTs) and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), some pollution such as light or sound may be more difficult to minimize or reduce in such a manner. WWTPs can successfully capture excess nutrients, pharmaceuticals and litter that are transported through sewerage and wastewater systems. However, pollution management ‘ en route ’ means there is both more production and more likelihood of leakage to the environment. In addition, infrastructure that captures pollution is often expensive, requires ongoing maintenance (and hence funding support), and if not managed properly, can become physically blocked, or result in increased risk to human health and the broader environment (e.g. flooding during heavy rainfall events). When considering management opportunities and risks for both land and sea-based pollution, the approaches required may be quite different, yielding unique challenges and opportunities for resolution in each (Alexander et al. 2020 ).

Actions at the sinks

Acting at sinks essentially requires pollution removal (Fig.  1 ). This approach is the most challenging, most expensive, and least likely to yield positive outcomes. The ocean encompasses more than 70% of the earth’s surface and extends to depths beyond ten kilometres. Hence it is a vast area for pollutants to disperse and economically and logistically prohibitive to clean completely. However, in some situations collecting pollutants and cleaning the marine environment is most viable option and there are examples of success. For example, some positive steps to remediate excess nutrients include integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (Buck et al. 2018 ). ‘Net Your Problem’ is a recycling program for fishers to dispose of derelict fishing gear ( www.netyourproblem.com ). Municipal-based and sea-based industry pollutants are often reduced through clean-up events. For example, large oils spills often require community volunteers to remove and clean oil from coastal environments and wildlife. Such activities provide increased awareness of marine pollution issues, and if data are recorded, can provide a baseline or benchmark against which to compare change. To address pollution at sinks requires us to prioritise efforts towards areas with high acclamations of pollution, (e.g., oil spills). Repeated removal or cleaning is unlikely to yield long term results, without managing the pollution upstream –whether along the route or at the source.

To achieve the More Sustainable Future, and significantly reduce pollution (thereby achieving the SGD targets in Supplementary Table 2), society must take ongoing action now and continue this movement beyond 2030. Prioritising the prevention of pollutants from their sources, using bans and incentives, outreach and education, and replacement technologies, is one of the most important steps that can be taken to shift towards a more sustainable future. Without addressing pollution from the source, current and future efforts will continue to remediate rather than mitigate the damage pollution causes to the ocean and organisms within. For pollutants that are not currently feasible to reduce at the source, collection of pollutants before they reach the ocean should be prioritised. For example, wastewater treatment plants and gross pollutant traps located at point-source locations such as stormwater and wastewater drains are feasible methods for reducing pollutants before they reach the ocean. Actions at the sink should target areas where the maximum effort per quantity of pollution can be recovered from the ocean. For example, prompt clean-up responses to large pollution events such as oil spills or flooding events and targeting clean-ups at beaches and coastal waters with large accumulations of plastic pollution.

These priority actions are not the perfect solution, but they are great examples of what can be and is feasibly done to manage marine pollution. Each action is at risk of failing to shift to a cleaner ocean without the support from governments, industries, and individuals across the whole system (from the source to the sink). Governments and individuals need to push for legislation that is binding and support sustainable practices and products. Effective methods for policing also need to be established in partnership with the binding legislation. Regardless of which zone are addressed, our actions on sea and coastal country must be guided by Indigenous knowledge and science (Fischer et al., 2020 ; Mustonen (in prep).

We recognise the major global disruptions which have occurred in 2020, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic. The futures presented here were developed prior to this outbreak and therefore do not consider the effects of this situation on global pollution trends. In many ways, this situation allows us to consider a ‘reset’ in global trajectory as discussed by Nash et al. ( 2021 ). Our sustainable future scenario may be considered a very real goal to achieve in the coming decade.

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


We thank Lola, Rex and Vanessa Greeno for sharing their knowledge of the impacts of pollution on their art and culture. Thank you to Animate Your Science, JB Creative Services and Annie Gatenby for assistance with the graphical aspects of this project. Thank you to Rupert the Boxer puppy for deciding authorship order. This paper is part of the ‘Future Seas’ initiative ( www.FutureSeas2030.org ), hosted by the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania. This initiative delivers a series of journal articles addressing key challenges for the UN International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. The general concepts and methods applied in many of these papers were developed in large collaborative workshops involving more participants than listed as co-authors here, and we are grateful for their collective input. Funding for Future Seas was provided by the Centre for Marine Socioecology, IMAS, MENZIES and the College of Arts, Law and Education, the College of Science and Engineering at UTAS, and Snowchange from Finland. We acknowledge support from a Research Enhancement Program grant from the DVCR Office at UTAS. Thank you to Camilla Novaglio for providing an internal project review of an earlier draft, and to guest editor Rob Stephenson, editor-in-chief Jan Strugnell and two anonymous reviewers, for improving the manuscript. We acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners and custodians of sea country all around the world, and recognise their collective wisdom and knowledge of our ocean and coasts.

Author contributions

P.S. Puskic and K. Willis share equal lead authorship on this paper. All authors wrote sections of this manuscript and contributed to concept design and paper discussions. N.F and H.P. wrote the narratives for Table ​ Table4. 4 . D.G. wrote Table ​ Table3. 3 . All authors provided edits and feedback to earlier drafts.


The authors declare no conflict of interest. This work is original and has not been submitted for publication anywhere else.

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

P.S. Puskic and K.A. Willis share equal lead authorship on this paper.

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Study Today

Largest Compilation of Structured Essays and Exams

Essay on Marine Pollution : Causes, Effects & Solutions

February 2, 2021 by Study Mentor Leave a Comment

Table of Contents

What is Marine pollution?

Marine pollution can be defined as the contamination of marine water, mainly big seas and oceans with pollutants and contaminants like industrial effluents, oil spills from huge vessels, chemical displacements, chemical spills, sewage etc.

Plastics, garbage, litter etc that we throw into our waste baskets ultimately end up in far off oceans, also contributing to marine pollution.

In general, pollution can be defined as any physical, chemical or biological agent that tends to contaminate the air, water and soil of an environment.

It has the ability to transform/toxicate the basic elemental components that degrade the natural balance of the ecosystem.

Pollution can be of various types, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, radioactive pollution etc. Aquatic pollution can be categorized into marine pollution and fresh water pollution.

Due to uncontrolled developmental activities, urbanization and various anthropogenic activities, there is dumping of hazardous waste directly or indirectly into marine waters.

Most of this dumping happens without our knowledge and thus directly or indirectly, we are responsible for the hordes of waste and dirt that set sail on far off ocean waters.

Sources of Marine pollution

  • One of the biggest sources of marine pollution is the oil spill due to collision of oil tanks.
  • A considerable amount of runoff from the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers in fields is the second largest contributor to marine pollution.
  • Oil exploration and shipping industries are also one of the major contributing factors of marine pollution. This, coupled with transportation of large amounts of crude oil from one place to another often results in marine pollution.
  • Thermal power plants release huge quantities of hot water in bulk which in turn leads to thermal shocks and loss of insulation in aquatic animals.
  • Natural processes like volcanic activity, tremors, and cyclones play a catastrophic role in accidental spillage of petroleum and oil.

We have for sure visited seas and oceans and admired nature and its beauty. The scenic waters, the boundless beauty of nature sure catches our attention when we visit a place tucked in the lap of nature.

Amidst all this, we even crib about the dirt that keeps sailing on ocean waters. Unknowingly, we ourselves are responsible for the throw of such dirt that is afloat on sea and ocean waters.

The garbage that we throw into collection points at home gets segregated at appropriate units and the wet wastes go into the dumping ground.

The rest of the dry waste heap is dumped at places in the outskirts of cities. With the forces of nature, they are gradually taken too far off, unknown places which ultimately land in sea and ocean waters.

This is what we find sailing on beaches, seas and oceans. If we are unable to see the dirt on waters, we can imagine how choking they must be to the marine life inside the sea water.

Let us remind ourselves that there is a world of life inside the marine waters, some of which we know and majority of which we don’t know.

The life under marine waters seems mysterious at the same time curious for the exploitative minds. We have been talking about how pollution causes disturbance to the ecology on land.

We have hardly thought about the creatures underwater.

If we dwell further into this topic, we would find that the life under ocean is very beautiful, at the same time threatened by man-made factors, killing and choking them to death.

Marine life was undisturbed till a certain time ago when oil spills became a normal thing, the spill of chemical wastes into big oceans was just another thing and there were no special attachments to it.

Hence we find the marine life disturbed by a whole lot of factors such as oil spills, chemical interferences, sewage contributions etc. These specific causes pollute the marine waters, thus causing huge damage to marine life.

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Effects of Marine pollution

  • Natural pH of the water body is altered; therefore it does not support the aquatic flora and fauna.
  • There is a reduction in the Dissolved oxygen in the aquatic system, causing asphyxiation.
  • Aquatic fauna is suffocated as the hydrocarbons in oils clog the gills and other structures of fish.
  • There is widespread contamination of commercial fish. When the spillage is over a large area, it creates a thin film on the sea surface called oil slick. It contaminates the internal organs of creatures and thus causes food poisoning upon consumption.
  • Deteriorates the aesthetic value by water fouling and algal bloom.
  • Loss of biological diversity and destabilization of food chains and food webs.

Let us just imagine that there has been an oil spill from a huge vessel and by the time the authorities wake up to the spill, it has already spread far and wide.

Since oil cannot dissolve in water, the surface of the water is seen colored badly with the spread of oil. The marine life under the spilled area is highly under threat.

The natural composition and constituents of water has totally changed and there is hardly any way the natural balance of marine water can be restored.

Nature takes its time to restore the natural balance of the good waters, so a significant damage has thus set in.

If we were given a glass of water mixed with cooking oil to swallow, would we be able to do it, I wonder.

It’s just not possible because the penetration of oil particles into water molecules alters the constituent composition of water and makes it an altogether different mixture.

So, water mixed with oil becomes a varied mixture, not rendering its natural efficacy.

Just a drop of such water kept on our tongue gives us such a bad feeling.

So, we should be able to understand how difficult marine life under such unfit waters should be living with. In short, marine life, once toxicated with chemical elements loses its natural beauty and it takes many years to restore the natural life balance again.

Solutions for marine pollution

  • We can adhere to the 3R policy that is reuse, reduce and recycle our resources to reduce consumption and waste management.
  • Organize a cleanup spree with awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of a clean healthy environment.
  • Substituting jute bags over plastic bags.
  • Consciously, reducing in the overall ecological and carbon print by carpooling, cycling, turning off the lights and fans when not in use.
  • Commonly used method for an oil spillage is skimming; it is because the density of oil is lighter than the density of water because of which they can be easily separated.
  • Usage of absorbents, natural absorbents like sponges can soak the contaminants leaving the area pollutant free.

We cannot avoid huge oil spills, because most of these incidences occur after taking enough precautions while transporting oil in vessels from one region to another.

We should at least take preventive measures and work towards reducing pollution in areas that we can achieve less toxicity and less contamination.

Such measures may include proper waste management systems, recycling of waste water for purposes like gardening, washing cars, etc.

Instead of channeling all wastes ultimately towards the oceans, we must give a thought to the life under waters too.

If we bring in a supported approach, a scientifically incubated approach that will drift away the accumulation of wastes away from marine waters, we would be successful in providing a second life to aquatic and marine creatures.

As per article 51-A, it is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.

The more we try to understand the functioning of such complex systems, the more we come to realize that these systems are systemic in nature and are interrelated and interdependent on each other’s components.

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Track Pollution

Essay on Marine Pollution | Causes, Effects, and Solution

Welcome to the finest article that talks about the essay on marine pollution.

Marine Pollution refers to the introduction of harmful materials into the sea which has an adverse effect on the environment.

Such pollutants include pesticides, fertilizer, organochlorine, oils, and a variety of other waste products.

The rise in marine pollutants leading to a very unfavorable condition of living which is responsible for the extinction of marine mammals and fishes.

Marine pollution affects humans too, especially the peoples who live in the coastal areas.

Page Contents

Causes of Marine Pollution

essay on marine pollution

There are not a few causes of marine pollution but its number exceeds over all the limits. While it is pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial wastes, agriculture wastes, sewage, and many more.

These all are highly responsible for marine pollution or in its rise. Below are the major causes of marine pollution that everyone should know.

1. Industrial Wastes

One of the commonest and major causes of marine pollution is industrial waste. Every day, a new industry establishes in the world and some of them further lead to form marine poll.

As of reports, over 70,000 tons of zinc, 17000 tons of copper, 12000 tons of lead, and 8000 tons of arsenic are discharged every year into the ocean.

Despite these, most industrial substances are toxic such as plastics, oils, acids, alkalies, etc.

And when they released these toxic substances into the oceans or seas, it directly affects the aquatic animals along with the environment.

2. Agriculture Wastes

The second and very mutual cause of marine pollution is agricultural practices.

In this modern world, farmers like to do easy works and therefore they use chemical fertilizers for the instant growth of their crops.

Although, they aren’t aware of the fact how it harms the environment. The used chemicals were later carried by the rains to the ocean and it increases marine pollution.

In India, over 55,000 tons of pesticides are used annually and 25% of them were carried to the oceans.

3. Municipal Waste

The next very common cause is municipal wastage . Every house has a kitchen and every kitchen has numerous products including environment friendly or opposite.

Such products are carried out into the ocean by some private waste municipal corporations. They use to collect the wastes and thereafter they dumped into the oceans.

Especially, the houses or hotels located near the coastal areas directly threw out the wastes into the oceans.

4. Sewage Treatment

Earlier we talked about the household wastes taken by the waste municipal parties. But in the same way, those products are carried out into the oceans by sewage.

Still, there is a number of cities which has not to have any proper sewage treatment. Further, the sewage transfers the wastes to rivers and thereafter to the oceans or seas.

5. Volcanic Eruption

The very dangerous natural cause of marine pollution is volcanic eruption. It carried out a huge amount of harmful chemicals into the water bodies.

It severely affects the water quality and damages aquatic living on a very large scale. Although, it is natural and can’t be stopped so peoples mostly like to ignore it.

Above are only the major causes of marine pollution. Apart from these, there are so many causes like oil leakage, deep-sea mining, tanker accident, and petroleum washed off from roads.

These all cause the rise in marine pollution and these shouldn’t be ignored by humans.

Effects of Marine Pollution

Marine pollution affects the environment severely and brings an adverse change to the environment. The effects included Humans, Plants, and Animals, especially aquatic ones.

Thousands of Aquatic species are being extinct only because of marine pollution.

In coastal area, people are losing their habitat only because of marine pollution. Likely, there are many more effects of marine pollution which have been defined below.

  • Animals Life

Marine pollution harshly affects animal life on a large scale. Marine animals lost their habitat because of the rise in pollution in the coastal areas.

They are even unable to take clean water anymore. And mostly, aquatic animals are affected by marine pollution as it creates unfavorable conditions in the sea or ocean.

When there is oil on the surface of the ocean, it severely affects the migrating bird.

When the birds try to drink water during their journey, the oil gets trapped between their feature and they are unable to fly anymore.

This resulted in their death. Hence, Marine pollution is also the cause of birds’ and animals extinctions.

Peoples think that marine pollution hasn’t any effect on their life. Although it’s wrong thinking and the truth is that marine pollution is responsible for millions of people’s death.

This effect would mainly be seen in the coastal areas. Peoples there mostly depend on the oceans and seas.

Even they use to take fishes in their lunch because of its easy availability. And increasing marine pollution led to the end of aquatic animals and further it affects humans.

In fact, many marine and aquatic plants are very important in human life. And again, marine pollution destroys them and later it became a problem in human life.

  • Eutrophication

Marine pollution plays a key role in the process of Eutrophication. Now, what is Eutrophication?

It is a phenomenon in which the surface of the water body gets covered by wastes which further interferes with the aquatic plant’s process of photosynthesis.

As result, the plants are unable to form oxygen and later the aquatic animals die. It majorly causes by the oil as it does not sink but floats on the water surface.

Preventions of Marine Pollution

After being aware of the causes and effects of marine pollution, everyone needs to know its prevention. Now there are small steps and also big steps for it.

Factory wastes can’t be stopped by individuals but the government can. Let you know below the major steps to prevent marine pollution.

The first and very important way to prevent marine pollution is to avoid non-biodegradable products. These are the products that never decomposed and thus end up polluting the environment.

Such products are plastic, metals, polythene, etc. Avoiding these products can prevent marine pollution on a vast level.

Never throw the waste in open land and instead try to dump them in the dustbins. Also, do not throw toxic wastes in the sewage.

In addition to this, try to recycle the products or learn their reuse methods.

Agriculture practices that include chemical fertilizers should be minimized. Instead, the farmers should use natural fertilizers as it is both human and environment-friendly.

One of the best ways to reduce marine pollution is through proper sewage treatment. This can be done in both chemical and physical ways which result in the removal of pollutants from the water.

This also helps to prevent eutrophication. So, above are some common and major ways to prevent marine pollution on a broad level.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about the essay on marine pollution. Let us know your feedback in the comment section.

Next Read:  Essay on Environmental Pollution | Various Causes, Effects and Preventions

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The Ocean Pollution Problem Overview Essay

Introduction, sources of ocean pollution, oil pollution, toxic materials, dangerous debris, dumping and mining, ways of preventing ocean pollution.

Oceans are salient features on earth because they contribute to warming the earth. They are essential components of the water cycle and home to millions of living organisms. In addition, oceans provide a recreation facility and employment to millions of people. Ocean pollution is the unfavorable upshot due to the entrance of chemicals and particulate substances into the ocean. The toxic components combine with plankton and other sea animals, which are not filter feeders. Consequently, these pollutants find their way into animal feeds containing high levels of fish products. Therefore, these toxic compounds are also present in animal products such as milk, eggs, and meat from animals consuming the contaminated feeds ( Ocean Planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.).

The land is the key source of ocean pollution in the form of non-point water pollution. This occurs because of runoff and includes numerous sources such as motor vehicles, boats, forests, septic tanks among many others (What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean? n.d.). Many sources of ocean pollution such as oil sills, sewage, toxic substances, and mining fall under point pollution.

Oil enters sea and oceans accidentally and non-accidentally. Millions of oil gallons get into the ocean through various ways such as offshore drilling, oil spills, natural seeps, routine maintenance, and down the drain ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). Used engine oil finds its way into water bodies during oil changes when the used oil is washed into water bodies. In addition, vehicles burn fuels to produce hydrocarbons in the gaseous form. These gases are released into the air, dissolved in rainwater and later drained into the sea. Natural oil seeps are a consequent of oil seepage from eroding sedimentary rocks, which release oil into water bodies from the bottom of the sea ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). Accidental large spills contribute only 5 percent of oil pollution. However, one spill can have damaging outcome in a large area.

Toxic wastes are poisonous substances deposited into water bodies. They include compounds such as tributyl tin from boat paints, industrial, household cleaning, agricultural (fertilizers and pesticides), and other chemicals from factories ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). They dissolve in water, effortlessly move through the food chain and find themselves in seafood ( Ocean Pollution , n.d.). Most of the toxic wastes are metal components. According to Lutgens, Tarbuk, and Tasa, the salinity in a water body can never be constant. This is because plants and other water animals use the dissolved mineral elements in strengthening their tissues (2010).

This implies that these organisms can also take up soluble toxic compounds and accumulate them in their tissues. Lead is a common and extremely harmful toxic compound that harms the kidneys, brain and reproductive systems of humans. Lead decelerates growth, causes birth defects, is carcinogenic, and impairs hearing. Lead batteries, paints, fishing lures, ceramics, water pipes, and bullet parts emit lead into the water ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). Fertilizers increase the number of algae plantations in water bodies (eutrophication), which exhaust the dissolved oxygen and throttle other marine organisms (Lenzi, 2008).

Improperly disposed solid garbage gets into the ocean. Pieces of glass, plastics, shoes, medical wastes (syringes and used needles), and polythene papers are examples of such debris. Some marine animals such as whales, turtles, seals, puffins, and dolphins mistake plastics for food and eat them ( WWF – Marine problems: Pollution, n.d.). This kills them by obstructing their respiratory pathways and digestive tracts. Water can also wash this debris to the shores, which pollutes beaches and creating an eyesore. Polluted beaches send tourists away leading to massive losses in the tourism industry.

Humans consider oceans as dumping sites for their numerous domestic and industrial wastes including compounds with low levels of radioactivity. Man thinks that the seawater can adulterate these substances to harmless concentrations. However, the processes in the ocean concentrate some of these harmful substances leading to ocean pollution.

Oceans, on the other hand, are unexploited sources of some minerals and ores. The building industry, for example, obtains building materials such as sand and gravel from the coast and the surrounding coral reefs ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). This is a common phenomenon in island countries with inadequate internal reserves. Mining contributes to water pollution by deposition of particulate matter and erodes coastal beaches. Manganese, nickel, cobalt, and copper are some of the metals available in the “abyssal mud of the ocean’s deepest basins” ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). Mining under the water is expensive compared to the conventional mining process on land. However, it is only a matter of time before new technology in mining under the water comes up.

Untreated and under-treated sewage flows into oceans causing pollution. For example, in the Mediterranean Sea receives about 80% of untreated sewage ( Marine problems: Pollution , n.d.). This causes outbreaks of water-borne human diseases and eutrophication. Wastewater from the land drains into water bodies such as rivers and lakes, which drain into seas and oceans.

Boat engines pollute oceans from the gasoline emitted. However, boating is an inevitable practice in some instances. Some precautions can help minimize boating pollution such as turning on the boat engine when it is necessary. Gasoline ought to be stored away from direct sunlight to minimize evaporation and air pollution, which comes back to the ocean as rainwater. It is also essential to replace boat engines regularly and ensure that they are in a good working condition. Ensuring that only clean water gets into the oceans goes a long way in limiting wastewater pollution. This is possible by creating tanks with the capability of harvesting all rainwater runoffs and treating it before discharging it into water bodies.

Setting up rules and regulations that restrict dumping of wastes is an effective way of preventing pollution. The “London Convention,” a United Nations directed pact prevents dumping of wastes and regulates the deposition of certain substances ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.). In addition, the federal and international regulations forbid discarding plastic trash overboard. Consequently, the United States Navy ensures that no trash is discarded overboard by providing onboard processors that compress and disinfect plastic rubbish. The establishment of cleaning programs can help get rid of debris from water bodies. A good example is the Center for Marine Conservation’s International Coastal Cleanup, a program that unites various volunteers worldwide in cleaning up water bodies ( Ocean planet: Pollution 1 , n.d.).

Ocean pollution is a serious problem that ought to be controlled because water is an extremely essential component for the sustenance of life. Some sources of pollution are controllable, whereas the natural sources are uncontrollable. It is, therefore, necessary for humankind to do everything to minimize ocean pollution due to the controllable sources.

Lenzi, M. (2008). Resuspension of sediment as a method of managing eutrophic lagoons. In Hofer, N. T. (Ed.), Marine Pollution: New research (pp. 15-23). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Lutgens, F. K., Tarbuk, E.J., & Tasa, D. (2010). Foundations of earth science (6 th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson College Division.

Marine problems: Pollution . (n.d.). Web.

Ocean planet: Pollution 1 . (n.d.). Web.

Ocean pollution. (n.d.). Web.

What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean? (n.d.). Web.

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Essay on marine pollution: sources, effects and control.

essay about marine pollution


Essay on Marine Pollution: Sources, Effects and Control!

Marine pollution is defined as the introduction of substances to the marine environment directly or indirectly by man resulting in adverse effects such as hazardous to human health, obstruction of marine activities and lowering the quality of sea water.

Sources of Marine Pollution :

a. Municipal waste and sewage from residences and hotels in coastal towns are directly discharged into sea.

b. Pesticides and fertilizers from agriculture which are washed off by rain enter water courses and finally to sea. India is estimated to use 55,000 tons of pesticides annually and about 25 percent of it is carried to-ocean.

c. Petroleum and oil washed off from roads normally enter sewage system and finally into seas.

d. Ship accidents and accidental spillage at sea can therefore be very damaging to the marine environment.

e. Off shore oil exploration also pollute the sea water to a large extent,

f. Dry docking: All ships periodic dry docking servicing; cleaning the hulls etc. during this period when cargo compartments are emptied, residual oil goes into sea.

g. Pollution due to organic wastes: When O 2 concentration falls 1.5 mg/L, the rate of aerobic oxidants reduced and replaced by the anaerobic bacteria that can oxidize the organic molecules without the use of oxygen.

h. Pollution due to oil: Crude oil is transported by sea after a tanker has unloaded its cargo of oil; it has to take on sea water ballast for return journey. This ballast water is stored in cargo compartments that previously contained oil.

During unloading of cargo certain amount of oil remains clinging to the walls of container and this may amount to 800t in a 200,000t tankers. The ballast water thus contaminated with oil. When fresh crag of oil is to be loaded these compartments are clean with water which discharges the dirty ballast along with oil into sea.

i. Tanker accidents: In the natural process, a large no. of oil tanker accidents happens every year. Sometimes this can results in major disasters.

j. Volcanic eruptions in the sea.

k. Deep sea mining is a relatively new mineral retrieval process that takes place on the ocean floor. Ocean mining sites are usually done at about 1,400 – 3,700 meters below the ocean’s surface. The vents create sulfide deposits, which contain precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc. These raise questions about environment damage to surrounding areas. Removal of parts of the sea floor will result in disturbances to the benthic layer, and habitat of benthic organisms. Beside from direct impact of mining the area, leakage, spills and corrosion would alter the mining area’s chemical makeup.

Effects of Marine Pollution :

a. Apart from causing Eutrophication, a large amount of organic wastes can also result in the development of ‘red tides’. These are phytoplankton blooms because of which the whole area is discolored.

b. Commercially important marine species are also killed due to clogging of gills and other structures.

c. When oil is spilled on the sea, it spreads over the surface of the water to form a thin film called as oil slick. This damages marine life to a large extent. Commercial damage to fish by tainting which gives unpleasant flavor to fish and sea food reduces market values of sea food and causes death of birds through its effect on feathers. Birds often clean their plumage by pruning and in the process consume oil which can lead to intestinal, renal and liver failure.

d. For salt marshy plants oil slick can affect the flowering, fruiting and germination.

e. Organic waste addition results in end products such as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and methane which are toxic to many organisms. This process results in the formation of an anoxic zone which is low in its oxygen content; from which most life disappears except for anaerobic microorganisms and renders the water foul smelling.

f. The coral reefs are the productive ecosystems offer many benefits to people. These coral reefs are threatened by (a) the sediments from deforestation carried by the runoffs, (b) the agricultural and industrial chemicals reaching through river discharges. To mention an example. River Ganga is estimated to carry 1.5 billion tons of sediments due to deforestation and intensive farming in India, Bangladesh and Nepal through which it flows to Bay of Bengal.

g. Drill cuttings dumped on the seabed result in the production of toxic sulphides in the bottom sediment thus eliminating the benthic fauna.

Control Measures of Marine Pollution :

a. Introduction of sewage treatment plants to reduce BOD of final product before discharging into sea.

b. Cleaning oil from surface waters and contaminated beaches can be accelerated through the use of chemical dispersants which can be sprayed on the oil.

c. Load on top system reduce oil pollution cleaned with high pressures jets of water.

d. Crude oil washing: The clingage is removed by jets of crude oil while the cargo is being unloaded.

e. Skimming off the oil surface with a section device.

f. Spreading a high density powder over the oil spill, so that oil can I be sunk to the bottom.

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Essays on Marine Pollution


Essay on Ocean Pollution

Students are often asked to write an essay on Ocean Pollution in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution: an overview.

Ocean pollution is a grave issue affecting our planet. It involves harmful substances, like plastic and chemicals, entering the ocean, damaging marine life and ecosystems.

Causes of Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution primarily arises from human activities. Waste, especially plastic, is often dumped into oceans. Oil spills from ships also contribute significantly.

Effects of Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution harms marine life. Animals ingest plastic or get entangled in it, often leading to their death. It also disrupts the balance of marine ecosystems.

Preventing Ocean Pollution

We can prevent ocean pollution by reducing waste, recycling more, and supporting laws that protect oceans. Everyone’s small efforts can make a big difference.

250 Words Essay on Ocean Pollution


Ocean pollution, a pressing global issue, is the contamination of our seas with harmful substances. This scourge, primarily driven by human activities, poses a significant threat to marine ecosystems and human health.

The primary culprits of ocean pollution are industrial waste, plastic debris, oil spills, and agricultural runoff. Industries often dump waste directly into oceans, releasing toxic chemicals that harm marine life. Plastics, due to their non-biodegradable nature, remain in the ocean for centuries, often ingested by marine animals, leading to their demise. Oil spills have devastating effects, smothering marine life and damaging habitats. Agricultural runoff, rich in fertilizers and pesticides, can cause harmful algal blooms, depleting oxygen levels and creating “dead zones”.

Impacts of Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution’s impacts are multifaceted. It wreaks havoc on marine biodiversity, leading to population declines and species extinction. It also disrupts the food chain, as toxins accumulate in larger predators through bioaccumulation. In addition, ocean pollution affects human health, as we consume seafood contaminated with toxins.

In conclusion, ocean pollution is a grave issue that demands immediate attention. Sustainable practices, strict regulations, and public awareness are key to mitigating this crisis. As we rely heavily on oceans for sustenance and recreation, it is our collective responsibility to safeguard them for future generations.

500 Words Essay on Ocean Pollution

Introduction: the deepening crisis of ocean pollution.

Ocean pollution, a growing environmental concern, poses significant threats to marine ecosystems and human health. The ocean, which covers over 70% of the earth’s surface, is the lifeblood of our planet. It regulates climate, feeds millions of people, and is home to an incredible array of wildlife. However, the health of our oceans is under severe threat from anthropogenic activities.

The Sources of Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution stems from numerous sources. The primary culprit is land-based activities, which account for approximately 80% of marine pollution. Industrial effluents, untreated sewage, agricultural run-off, and plastic waste are all discharged into rivers and ultimately flow into the oceans.

Maritime activities are another significant source of ocean pollution. Oil spills from ships, discarded fishing gear, and discharge of ballast water introduce harmful substances into the marine environment.

Impacts on Marine Ecosystems

The impacts of ocean pollution on marine ecosystems are profound and far-reaching. Plastic debris, for instance, entangles and injures marine animals. Many species, including sea turtles and seabirds, mistake plastic for food, leading to ingestion, malnutrition, and often death.

Chemical pollutants, on the other hand, can disrupt the reproductive processes of marine organisms. Heavy metals and other toxic substances bioaccumulate in marine food chains, posing health risks not only to marine life but also to humans consuming seafood.

Climate Change and Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution also exacerbates the impacts of climate change. Nutrient run-off from agriculture can cause algal blooms, leading to ‘dead zones’ where oxygen levels are so low most marine life cannot survive. These areas are increasing due to global warming, which raises ocean temperatures and lowers oxygen levels.

Additionally, carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are absorbed by the oceans, causing ocean acidification. This threatens the survival of shell-forming organisms and coral reefs, which are vital for marine biodiversity.

Addressing Ocean Pollution

Addressing ocean pollution requires a multi-pronged approach. At the policy level, stricter regulations are needed for waste disposal and agricultural run-off. International cooperation is also essential to manage pollution from maritime activities.

Technological innovations can also play a key role. For instance, developing more efficient waste management systems and promoting biodegradable materials can reduce the amount of waste entering the oceans.

Public awareness and education are also crucial. By understanding the sources and impacts of ocean pollution, individuals can make more informed choices, such as reducing plastic consumption and responsibly disposing of waste.

Conclusion: The Urgent Call to Preserve Our Oceans

Ocean pollution is a complex and pressing issue that threatens the health of our planet. As we move forward, it is imperative that we view the oceans not as an endless resource and dumping ground, but as a vital ecosystem that needs our protection. Through a combination of policy, technology, and education, we can begin to turn the tide on ocean pollution.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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essay about marine pollution

  • Environment
  • Marine licences

Government launches new UK-based environmental science network on deep-sea mining

Experts and academics are invited to join a new science network that will help to provide evidence on the environmental impact of deep-sea mining

essay about marine pollution

The UK Government has today (Monday 19 February) launched a new UK-based environmental science network, to gather scientific data, and carry out world-class research to help assess the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.  

Eligible applicants can now apply to join the network and share their expertise to help fill in the current evidence gaps in understanding the consequences of deep-sea mining on our ecosystems. Bringing together the UK’s environmental science expertise to share internationally will help the UK ensure that the highest environmental standards are enforced on deep sea mining. 

The network will work alongside the UK’s recent decision to support a moratorium on the granting of exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).  

The moratorium means the UK will not sponsor or support licences until sufficient scientific evidence is available to assess the impacts of deep-sea mining activities on marine ecosystems and strong, enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines have been developed and adopted by the ISA. 

Marine Minister Lord Benyon said:  The UK is committed to protecting the world’s ocean and improving the conservation of our marine ecosystems, so it’s important that we ensure the best environmental standards are in place so damaging activities like deep-sea mining are strongly regulated.   This new network is a further step in showing how we can use the scientific expertise that is on offer to protect and improve the conservation of our marine biodiversity.”  Professor Daniel Jones from National Oceanography Centre said:   The new DSM Environmental Science Network is an excellent way to harness the skills of the UK community with expertise on environments of interest for deep-sea mining. It will enable the very active research being carried out by UK scientists to be communicated quickly and effectively to the government to support evidence-based decision making on this topic.
Dr. Adrian Glover, Merit Researcher at the Natural History Museum, said: In joining the environmental science network, we are pleased to continue our research on the deep-sea to provide free, critical biodiversity data to everyone. At this crucial time in our planet’s history, it is important all activities that impact the natural world are informed by robust, evidence-based science.

The UK is committed to protecting and driving ocean conservation. Over recent years, the UK has:   

  • Committed to protecting at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 through a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), and driven this forward through UK-chaired Global Ocean Alliance   
  • Supported developing countries to protect the marine environment through projects to protect and restore habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses through the £500 million Blue Planet Fund  
  • Tackled the scourge of plastic pollution, recently consulting on a ban on wet wipes containing plastic, as part of efforts to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.  
  • Designated the first three Highly Protected Marine areas in English waters, enabling nature to fully recover by removing all harmful activities including fishing, construction and dredging, increasing marine biodiversity and supporting climate-resilient ecosystems to thrive.   
  • Created a comprehensive network of marine protected areas, in English waters there are 181 sites protecting 40% of our seas.  
  • Recently implemented a byelaw that restricts bottom towed fishing gear over rock and reef habitat in a further 13 MPAs.

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