American Oceans

Humans & How We Impact the Ocean

Every single person in the world is connected, in some way, to the ocean. From coastal cities to landlocked restaurants that import fish, the globe is reliant on the ocean for trade, transportation, and even the temperature in the climate around us. This means that the choices we as humans make can impact the ocean, no matter how small the decision. 

sunset over the ocean

The ocean is hurting more and more with each passing day. Human activity is effectively polluting and trashing the oceans of the world, from the smallest straw wrapper thrown into the trash to toxic waste dumped into the sea by factories and industries. 

How are Humans Hurting the Ocean?

Pollutants and Toxins

Virtually all ocean habitats have been affected in some way by drilling or mining. Deadly oil spills from crashed tankards have made international news dozens of times. “Dredging for aggregates”, or materials such as concrete and steel, destructive anchoring, and removal of corals for things such as land reclamation are among the many ways human impact has worked negatively against the planet’s oceans.

Carbon emissions also contribute to climate change by causing ocean acidification and ocean warming by trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing the earth and subsequently the oceans to heat up over time. 

Chemical pollution is another way that human impact has hurt the ocean. Toxic waste from chemical spills or intentional dumping by factories and corporations has led to mass deaths of wildlife. In addition to this, detrimental effects on animals can be seen as animals ingest toxins — long term, this can lead to changes in reproduction cycles and evolutionary cycles that animals require to survive.

Major Threats to Ocean Life

Fishing, though a crucial part of the global food supply and economy, is one of the largest and most destructive practices that affects the ocean. Certain fishing practices lead to overfishing the same species, like tuna or salmon. This does not include fishery practice where the fish are bred in captivity — this refers to wild caught fish, which are much harder to regulate and contain than fishery products. 

Wild catch fishing can damage the environment by dredging the seabed and catching other species not meant to be caught in nets. Dolphins and seals have been reeled in alongside tuna and this is not an uncommon occurrence. 

fishing net caught on a sea turtle in the ocean

Fishing gear is the biggest threat when it comes to ocean pollution by discarded resources. Lines and nets entangle some of the world’s largest mammals and huge swaths of whales, sharks, and sea turtles are dying quickly due to being entangled in discarded fishing gear. 

How Can Humans Help the Ocean?

This all seems very grim and hopeless, yes. But there are still so many ways to help.

As always, recycle! Every piece of garbage that is repurposed instead of being thrown away is another piece of garbage saved from making its way to the ocean. Single use plastics like straws, q-tips, and plastic shopping bags are being banned globally in an attempt to prevent these harmful materials from polluting the ocean. 

We can honor protected areas of the ocean and follow global laws that prevent swimming, boating, and fishing in certain areas. Even some sunscreens are being made now that are coral-safe, ensuring that the chemicals found in sunscreen and subsequently on swimmers’ bodies are not harming nearby reefs and wildlife. 

Investing in sustainable energy like solar power and hydroelectric power keeps oil rigs and drilling operations to a minimum in the ocean. Encouraging citizens to buy from local factories and creating closed circuit economies lessens the need for international boat traffic, and therefore there is less noise pollution created by the millions of boats that sit in the water at any given time.

Takeaways

There are many ways in which humans have hurt the environment but there are even more ways we can help to fix and nourish the ocean we rely on so heavily. Global efforts are being made to bring the oceans back to their former glory and there’s almost always something that we can do to make sure the oceans continue to give us what we need. 

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