Ocean pollution is a major threat to both marine life and ocean ecosystems. Changes can be made on global and individual scales to make a big impact towards preserving the oceans and saving its marine inhabitants.
Large Scale Solutions for Ocean Pollution
It's hard to clean up mass pollution once it has occurred, so the best plan is prevention. Several changes can take place to help keep industry in check and encourage sustainable practices in the US and across the globe such as:
- Stricter government regulations on industry and manufacturing is one large scale solution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enacted several laws to help protect beaches, reduce pollution from ships, reduce marine debris, and prohibit ocean dumping.
- Implement renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, to limit off-shore drilling. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks renewable ocean energy projects and offers analysis on how renewable energy can impact oceans throughout the United States.
- Limit agricultural pesticides and encourage organic farming and eco-friendly pesticide use. There are several federal laws and regulations that help prevent the sale and use of substandard pesticides. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to evaluate the impact of pesticides on endangered species and their habitats, including those in the ocean.
- Proper sewage treatment and exploration of eco-friendly wastewater treatment options, such as recycling sewage sludge to carbon-phosphorous fertilizer, are other solutions. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA offers assistance for recycling biosolids and regulates sewage sludge to help minimize metal concentrations in water.
- Cut down on industry and manufacturing waste and contain landfills so they don't spill into the ocean. The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments passed in 1984 set standards for landfills and placed restrictions on where landfills may be located.
According to the National Ocean Service, the largest source of ocean pollution is nonsource pollution caused by runoff. The best way you can help prevent large scale ocean pollution by agriculture, industry, and manufacturing is to elect and support legislators who back legislation to protect oceans and limit environmental pollution.
Changes to Make at Home
Some of the best solutions for ocean pollution starts with you. Even if you live in a place that is landlocked, your actions still affect the ocean's health. You've probably heard a lot about adopting a "green" lifestyle. Most of these basic principles also apply to protecting the oceans.
Help Reduce Ground Leaching
Take these steps to help reduce the amount of chemicals and toxic materials from leaching into the ground and ultimately, the ocean:
- Reduce your use of fertilizers and avoid using chemical pesticides in your yard.
- Eat organic whenever possible to help ultimately limit the demand for chemical pesticides.
- Clean your home with lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar instead of toxic cleaners.
- Properly dispose of motor oil, light bulbs, medications, and other hazardous items.
Reduce Carbon Emissions
According to NOAA, carbon emissions lead to ocean acidification which harms some types of marine life. Reduce your carbon footprint by:
- Carpooling, walking, or riding a bike and using high-efficiency appliances
- Carrying a reusable shopping bag instead of plastic bags
- Storing food in reusable containers instead of those you throw away
- Avoiding products that come with excess packaging
- Not littering
- Reducing, reusing, and recycling
Protect Beaches and Marine Life
These steps can help keep coastal areas clean and friendly to marine life:
- Cut apart each plastic ring of a six-pack holder to prevent marine life and other wildlife from becoming trapped and strangled.
- Eat local sustainable seafood and avoid imported seafood.
- Don't buy jewelry or other items made from coral, tortoise shells, or other marine life.
- Volunteer to clean-up an area of beach if you live nearby.
- Visit the beach; tourism improves coastal communities.
- Lobby your politicians on environmental issues.
- Donate to an organization that protects the ocean.
Organizations That Protect the Oceans
Another way to get involved is to donate your time or money to an organization that protects the ocean. There are many organizations dedicated to preventing ocean pollution and cleaning up pollution that has already occurred. Don't just watch television and tear-up over images of oil-slicked birds and trash-covered beaches. Get involved, learn more about pollution solutions, and consider donating your money and your time.
Blue Ocean Society
The Blue Ocean Society's mission is to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine, in particular the Humpback and minke whales. The organization educates communities about how human lifestyle choices impact marine life. It also maintains a whale database and sponsors beach clean-ups, underwater lobster trap clean-ups, school programs, and whale watches.
Greenpeace is dedicated to conserving oceans and marine life across the globe. Its grassroots efforts have resulted in the ban of destructive fishing practices, companies changing their fishing policies, and the creation of whale sanctuaries. It's currently spearheading an effort to zone approximately 40 percent of the ocean as protected areas.
Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA)
ORCA is committed to identifying the origins of nonsource ocean pollution and to developing low-cost pollution solutions. It also has a real time camera that provides up to 72 hours of deep sea video to observe marine life and its surroundings.
As an international advocacy organization, Oceana has offices around the globe that work make oceans more biodiverse. They advocate for science-based fishery management and other ocean restoration projects through focused campaigns that influence policy. They also use science to identify ocean threats.
This organization was founded in 1972. Its mission is to work with citizens throughout the world to bring about positive change that protects the oceans for future generations. It creates science-based solutions that help limit trash in the sea, encourage sustainable fisheries, reduce ocean acidification, and preserve ocean parks and marine protected areas.
Small Changes With Big Impacts
Oceans are resilient, but not indestructible. If they're to last for generations to come, humans must work together to reduce pollution and its impact. The best way to fight ocean pollution is to educate yourself on its causes and make small changes at home to reduce your carbon footprint. It's never too late to work to improve the ocean's health.