Human activities have been affecting our oceans and the life within them for centuries. But, only recently has the world begun to notice these detrimental effects. From low oxygen levels to ocean oil slicks, entire marine ecosystems are rapidly taking a turn for the worse. In many areas, our actions have even created unlivable ocean conditions, endangering marine life and, therein affecting our own economy and food supply. If we hope to recover from these effects, we must work together to restore the marine ecosystems we’ve so carelessly destroyed.
As humanity’s dependency on plastic continues to grow, so will its effect on ocean habitats. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for instance, stretches 1.6 million square kilometers and largely consists of plastic objects and small microplastics. Marine animals mistake this floating debris for food, but these plastics are indigestible, filling their stomachs until they starve. Thes plastic particles also spread hazardous chemicals that can climb up the food chain and destroy entire ecosystems. Currently, ocean debris directly affects more than 800 marine species.
Humanity’s demand for oil has also resulted in a more polluted ocean. Oil spills contribute about 12% of all ocean oil, while shipping, drains, dumping and drilling produce the other 88%. New methods of hunting for oil also have a significant impact on marine life. Seismic blasts used to detect new drill sites have decreased the number of zooplankton, which are an essential food and oxygen source for many species like fish and whales. Therefore, increased drilling operations have the potential to affect every level of the aquatic food chain.