• Sixty per cent of Earth population inhabits coastal lines of seas and oceans. This is why water bodies are the first ones to suffer from human activities. Pollute the oceans, and the planet will be dead within a year!

  • Large oceanic fish like tuna and marlins is not edible nowadays. The reason is the high concentration of mercury in its tissues. It is stored as an extremely toxic organic substance, methylmercury. Sources of mercury pollution are coal processing and chlorine production plants. Methylmercury is consumed by algae that feeds small fish, main forage for larger fish.

  • Oceanic streams capture plastic waste from our shores. There is an island made of plastic particles in the North Pacific that bears the name of the Great Garbage Patch. Its upper layers contain small suspended plastic pieces, and its bottom consists of larger particles. This island brings death to fish and marine birds. Partially, this waste is carried to the Hawaiian beaches.

  • Oil spills are a greater hazard to the environment than it seems. It's relatively easy to gather petroleum film from water surface. But there is no technology designed to get rid of aromatic hydrocarbons contained in crude oil. High concentration of these substances persists in the water for thirty years after the spill!

  • Acidification of the oceans is one of the global warming consequences. It is caused by high concentration of carbon dioxide in the water. All aftermath of this process is yet to be studied, however, it is well known now that high acidity leads to decay of structures composed of calcium carbonate – like corals and seashells.

  • Phosphorus and nitrogen pollution leads to uncontrollable growth of blue-green algae on the ocean bed. The algae consume all the oxygen dissolved in water, thus causing vast dead zones along the water column. Main cause of this pollution is careless farming: phosphates, nitrates and nitrites from fertilizers are washed off the fields by rainwater and carried to the oceans.

  • Deepwater mining sites are generally located near hydrotherms – underwater volcanoes. It is a modern way of extraction of iron, manganese, copper, cobalt, zinc, gold and silver. Although this method of extraction was invented recently, scientists say that it had already led to irreversible consequences, like death of deepwater creatures, toxic pollution and turbidity of all water column.

  • Noise pollution of the oceans remains a serious problem for most marine creatures like dolphins who are almost blind and perceive the world with ultrasound. Deepwater creatures don't have any eyesight at all, and sonar perception is all they have. Noise of passing vessels, seismic and survey radars choke the songs of the oceans!

  • Toxins in the oceans are an aftermath of industrialization that we now have to cope with. For examle, the bed of the Amur Liman is polluted with phenol dumped by Russian and Chinese plants. Some creatures have a particular ability to survive high toxicity levels. One of them is Chinese mitten crab, captured by commercial fisheries. Its meat may be very dangerous for human health.

  • Nuclear pollution of the oceans is trending the news ever since March 2011, the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. Due to large amounts of water radioactive elements didn't make it to Hawaii or Kurils. But there's no reason for optimism: commercial fisheries that operate relatively far from the Japanese Archipelago have already captured small fish polluted with dangerous amounts of cesium and iodine isotopes.

How We Kill the Oceans:

The Most Hazardous Types of Water Pollution

Several decades ago scientists were sure that since the World Ocean covers 75% of Earth surface, it would simply dissolve all pollutants. Their concentration would be insignificantly small, so it's not dangerous for humans. As a matter of fact, things turn out to be a little bit more complicated.

The Dirt Won't Go Away

WWF experts calculated the amount of pollutants dumped in the Oceans annually. It equals to total amount of pollutants that was present there 50 years ago. Besides that, whenever the scientists assumed that water would dissolve all pollutants, they never thought poison would all reach the oceanic food chain. Guess who's on top of it? It's us, humans...

Prior to 1970s there were no regulations on chemicals that could be disposed in the oceans, so different countries would dump pesticides, nuclear waste and chemical weapons straight to the sea. The British were the ones to get concerned firsthand: in 1972 they developed a national convention on waste disposal in the oceans. By 1996 the list of substances that could not be discharged in the oceans was significantly supplemented.

Poisonous Foods

The higher the creature is in the food chain, the higher is the concentration of toxins in its tissues

The bottom of the food chain is plancton – microscopic crustaceans and algae. They tend to store some poisonous substances, and over a certain period of time concentration of toxins in plancton reaches even higher levels than that dissolved in water. Tiny fishes, polyps and jellyfish nourish on poisoned plankton. Therefore, the higher the creature is in the food chain, the higher is the concentration of toxins in its tissues. For example, the amount of poisonous substances in tissues of polar bears, sharks and seals might exceed that in the environment by million times!

Plancton is the gateway for toxins in the oceanic food chain

Toxins are mostly stored in lipids, or adipous tissues. This is why fatty sorts of fish, like salmon, tuna and mackerel, are particularly dangerous. Food poisoning is probably the lightest consequence that we might get from the toxins with which we pollute the oceans. Delayed consequences may include cancer, psychic disorders, immune defficiency and fertility problems.

So it is obvious that problems of oceanic pollution affect us directly. Water could wash away practically anything, but it's the living beings who suffer from our hazardous activities. And then it all boomerangs to hit us.

Photos: Shutterstock.

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