While my last posts have focused on the captivity issue, today I’m going to focus on the issue of marine pollution and its affect on marine animals.
In 2008 a study1 counted more than 400 dead zones in the world’s oceans, especially around coasts with weak tidal action or currents. Dead zones are areas in the ocean that are affected by a phenomenon called hypoxia, or lack of oxygen. Because of the vanishing oxegyn the waters can no longer support marine life, especially life that lives primarily in bottom waters like coral reefs.
These dead zones are areas that are polluted by chemical waste running into the ocean from rivers causing europhication2 by increasing the nitrogen and phosphorous in the water. These chemicals fertilize algae that build up near the surface. Eventually the algae dies and sinks to the bottom where bacteria consume it, and the oxygen. The number of these dead zones has double every 10 years since 1960.
The dead zones are not only detrimental to the health of the oceans and the life that inhabits them, but also to coastal economies and the fishing industry which relies heavily on the biodiversity and the success of life in coastal waters. Fortunatly dead zones can be reversed. If the flow of chemicals is turned off, the coastal eco systems have a chance to recover. Ways you can help:
- Using fewer fertilizers and adjusting the timing of fertilizer applications to limit runoff of excess nutrients from farmland
- Control of animal wastes so that they are not allowed to enter into waterways
- Monitoring of septic systems and sewage treatment facilities to reduce discharge of nutrients to surface water and groundwater
- Careful industrial practices such as limiting the discharge of nutrients, organic matter, and chemicals from manufacturing facilities3
Trash vortexes are another major concern. Also called “garbage patches,” these areas consist of miles of plastic, chemical sludge, and trash floating on our ocean’s surface. In the late 1980s the great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted4 because of the continuous vortexes and currents that draw the trash to the surface of the North Pacific. This and similar concentrations of marine litter can be found all over the ocean. Especially in coastal bays.
The pollution has a detrimental affect on marine life. Animals may become tangled, or even eat the plastic mistaking it for prey. The ocean’s apex predators are at high risk. Dolphins that eat fish take in all of the toxins that the fish had in its food intake. Whales that die of these toxins and wash onto the beach may be so toxic that they are considered a hazard to humans.
You can help stop additional plastic from garbage patches by recycling, cleaning up litter, and reducing your waste by using cloth grocery bags, eating food with less packaging, or reusing plastics, rather than throwing them away. Choosing vegetables over meat also reduces pollution that affects our oceans. Check out http://plasticfreeguide.com/ for more ways you can begin a plastic free lifestyle. Even small steps can help save marine life that is being damaged by dead zones and trash vortexes. Be sure to spread the word. Your efforts could help save endangered species like sea turtles or manatees that consistantly come into contact with marine litter and chemical pollution. No doubt our marine life would be grateful. Including our beloved dolphins and whales.