On World Oceans Day we review what are the main causes of its pollution and what is our role in its conservation .
The Woman Post | July Vanesa López Romero
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Leer en español: Estas son las principales causas de la contaminación en los océanos
World Oceans Day is celebrated every June 8. The purpose of this commemoration is to draw attention to the importance of conserving this source of life, which is essential for the health of planet Earth and, consequently, of human beings and all forms of life found on it. The importance of the oceans resides in the fact that, according to the UN, it covers more than 70% of the Earth's surface, produces around 50% of the planet's oxygen , is home to most of the biodiversity and is a source of protein for more than one billion people in the world.
Despite all the benefits that the oceans bring, this is a resource that has historically been exploited without limit. Public policies and irregularities in the rules for its use throughout the world caused it to be in danger today. Suffice it to say that 50% of the coral reefs have been destroyed and that 90% of the large marine species have been depleted . Without a doubt, ocean pollution is one of the most worrying environmental crises today. But what are the causes of this panorama and what measures can we take as individuals to contribute to its conservation?
Causes of ocean pollution
Maritime pollution is a mixture of different components, including plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, sewage, and urban and industrial waste. In this sense, this mixture not only has origins in the industry, but also in daily and individual consumption.
Plastic pollution is the best known type of maritime pollution. Being organic compounds, plastics have the ability to absorb toxins from the environment and release them little by little in their decomposition, which can last hundreds of years. Objects made of this material can cause direct harm to different species in the sea, but microplastics cannot be seen with the naked eye and can have a very large impact not only on marine species, but also on humans. Thanks to the trophic chain, these can be found in humans.
Fishing nets that are deliberately lost or abandoned at sea account for around 85% of plastic pollution. In addition, trawling, which is the most widely used and common method in the fishery industry, is the main culprit for the destruction of coral reefs and the sea floor. Although illegal fishing might seem more polluting than legal fishing at first glance, it must be clarified that the way in which the oceans are exploited for human consumption of proteins from the sea is still far from regularizing.
Likewise, the consumption of products of animal origin, even if they are terrestrial, has a great impact on the oceans, since grains are grown massively to feed them. For this process, pesticides and herbicides are used that are absorbed by the soil and end up in rivers that reach the oceans.
On the other hand, one of the types of ocean pollution is eutrophication, which is the excess of inorganic nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, found in fertilizers, detergents, and wastewater. Eutrophication generates an accelerated and uncontrolled production of phytoplankton , forming a biomass that prevents sunlight from entering bodies of water and, therefore, hinders the production of oxygen, making life in these ecosystems unviable.
Chemical pollution, especially those generated by the pharmaceutical industry, has a huge impact on marine life. Animal and plant species are affected, but in the long run and thanks to the food chain, human beings can also see its consequences. Among them we find malformations, behavioral disorders and death by poisoning.
While governments, industries and the corporate sector bear the greatest responsibility for the causes and consequences of ocean pollution, as individuals we must also take action and assume our role in the supply chain. In the long run, industries and consumption move thanks to demand. These are some measures that you can adopt for the conservation of the oceans.
Reduce your consumption of products of animal origin: livestock and fish are the main industries responsible for climate change. By reducing the consumption of animal products and opting for plant products, you are contributing to reducing demand. If vegetarianism or veganism is a lifestyle that appeals to you and that you can get used to, dare to take the plunge. Otherwise, make sure that the products you consume have sustainable production processes. Do not trust "sustainability" labels, these are usually not entirely clear.
Separate your waste correctly: make sure you follow the parameters defined by your government or community. Remember to wash and dry previously any waste that can be recycled and take advantage of the organic ones to make compost. This is a great way to reduce your individual waste.
Dispose of medicines correctly: As we already mentioned, pharmaceutical chemicals have a great impact on the health of the oceans. Be sure to properly dispose of expired or unused medications. Look for disposal points in your city, these are usually found in shopping centers and their purpose is to be delivered to authorized managers to dispose of them correctly. Never flush them down the toilet.
Avoid drinking water or other bottled beverages: A great way to reduce your plastic use is to avoid consuming plastic bottled beverages. Opt to use a glass container or to have your own container. If the quality of drinking water in your city is not safe, invest in a water filter, you will save a lot of money that goes little by little in gallons or bottles of water.
Make conscious decisions: the path towards sustainability and conservation of the oceans and other ecosystems does not only depend on a few people, but on everyone. Your decisions must be aligned, so take all factors into account not only when exercising your consumption, but also your duties and rights as a citizen. Be sure to choose candidates who are focused on fighting climate change and conservation, and don't forget to encourage those around you to take action on their own.