Coastline Hand-cycle challenge 2017
Saving Our Oceans
Today, we need look no further than our own shores a once flourishing ocean ecosystem on the brink of collapse.
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The oceans are so vast and deep that until fairly recently, it was widely assumed that no matter how much trash and chemicals humans dumped into them, the effects would be negligible. Proponents of dumping in the oceans even had a catchphrase: “The solution to pollution is dilution.”
Pollution is the introduction of harmful contaminants that are outside the norm for a given ecosystem. Common man-made pollutants that reach the ocean include pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, plastics, and other solids. Many of these pollutants collect at the ocean’s depths, where they are consumed by small marine organisms and introduced into the global food chain. Scientists are even discovering that pharmaceuticals ingested by humans but not fully processed by our bodies are eventually ending up in the fish we eat.
Many ocean pollutants are released into the environment far upstream from coastlines. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers applied by farmers inland, for example, end up in local streams, rivers, and groundwater and are eventually deposited in estuaries, bays, and deltas. These excess nutrients can spawn massive blooms of algae that rob the water of oxygen, leaving areas where little or no marine life can exist. Scientists have counted some 400 such dead zones around the world.
Seas of garbage
Solid garbage also makes its way to the ocean. Plastic bags, balloons, glass bottles, shoes, and packaging material – if not disposed of correctly, almost everything we throw away can reach the sea.
Plastic garbage, which decomposes very slowly, is often mistaken for food by marine animals with often fatal effects, by marine mammals, fish, and birds that mistake it for food. High concentrations of plastic material, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, puffins, and turtles. Plastic six-pack rings for drink bottles can also choke marine animals. In certain regions, ocean currents corral trillions of decomposing plastic items and other trash into gigantic, swirling garbage patches. One in the North Pacific, known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is estimated to be the size of Texas. A new, massive patch was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean in early 2010.
This garbage can also come back to shore, where it pollutes beaches and other coastal habitats.
The Mediterranean is probably the most polluted ocean in the world.
The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that 650,000,000 tons of sewage, 129,000 tons of mineral oil, 60,000 tons of mercury, 3,800 tons of lead and 36,000 tons of phosphates are dumped into the Mediterranean each year.
Pollution is not always physical. In large bodies of water, sound waves can carry undiminished for miles. The increased presence of loud or persistent sounds from ships, sonar devices, oil rigs, and even from natural sources like earthquakes can disrupt the migration, communication, hunting, and reproduction patterns of many marine animals, particularly aquatic mammals like whales and dolphins.