Besides serving as a source of economic opportunities, recreation, and food, surface waters are also home to tens of thousands of sea creatures across the globe. These ranges from the smallest microscopic algae to the biggest whale, they all have a place they call home and that is surface waters — oceans, seas, rivers, streams, and lakes.
Unfortunately, these sea creatures are no longer safe in their homes. Human activities such as overfishing, oil spillage, plastic dumping, agricultural and industrial wastes, amongst other harmful practices account for the death of trillions of marine lives every year.
What we fail to understand is that these harmful practices are not only driving these sea creatures into extinction but also pushing the balance in the ecosystem to the far end.
Now, our world is in trouble and we have only a few years to correct our grave mistakes. This article covers some of the harmful practices human get involved with, how they affect marine life, and how green living can save the planet from imminent destruction.
Our water bodies suffer from some of the activities we do on land. Take burning of fossil fuel, for example. Not only does this destroy the one layer and increase the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but it also increases the pH level of surface waters when these chemicals fall from the atmosphere into water bodies. This shift in the pH of water bodies makes it difficult for marine life to survive, thus, leading to the death of many sea creatures.
Fishing has got to be one of the oldest ways humans used the oceans. While this is a great opportunity for food and as a means of earning a living, the untold effect of excessive fishing is soul-wrenching. Over the years, humans have exploited this means aggressively, resulting in the death of tons of fishes in surface waters.
Besides reducing the fish population drastically, the equipment used in modern-day fishing and some fishing techniques has been proven to have a negative impact on other marine life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying humans should stop fishing, but we should all follow best fishing practices and make use of equipment that does not deplete the marine ecosystem.
Pollution account for the highest death toll in the marine ecosystem. From atmospheric wastes to excessive nutrient and other land-source water pollution, humans have caused an untold disaster in the marine ecosystem that will take several years to fix. Being the broadest of all human activities affecting marine life, I decided to outline each source of water pollution below.
- Industrial Wastes: Disposing of industrial wastes such as chemicals and hot water used for cooling industrial machines is very common in our world today. The temperature of the water is way higher than that of the sea or ocean, thus disrupting the balance in the marine ecosystem.
- Oil Spillage: Although large scale oil spills do not occur often, however, when it is highly disastrous when it does. Crude oil spillage can last several years in the sea, suffocating thousands of sea creatures throughout its stay.
- Land Runoff: Runoff from land is one of the leading sources of water pollution. Harmful chemicals on land, especially agricultural wastes, are washed into water bodies once it rains. Therefore, introducing excessive nutrients, pesticides and other noxious chemicals that are detrimental to the health of marine life.
- Mining: The oceans, as I mentioned before, are also a source of natural resources such as crude oil, gold, copper, etc. Thus, ocean mining is inevitable. However, the process of mining for these resources gives room for pollutants to find their way into the marine ecosystem. Chemicals from the spills and sulfide deposits deep down the ocean lead to the death of many sea creatures.
- Sewage: Over the years, dumping of sewage in surface waters has caused several deaths in the marine ecosystem. Whether it gets there directly as seen when people dispose of wastes in surface waters or indirectly through runoff, these harmful substances find their way into seas and oceans, accounting for the death of many sea creatures via oxygen reduction.
- Plastics: The list of water pollutants will be incomplete without addressing the devastating impact of plastics in water bodies. Research shows that trillions of plastics find their way into water bodies every year either directly or indirectly. Humans introduce plastics to surface waters directly by dumping them into water bodies. Another way plastics get into the ocean is through runoff. Plastics laying on land as litters or on landfills are washed by runoff into the nearest water body which eventually flows into larger water bodies. Chemicals from these plastics are toxic to marine life. When mistaken as food by aquatic animals, these chemicals poison the animals and eventually kill them. Research shows that plastic is one of the top causes of death in the marine ecosystem. Sadly, the plastics in water bodies continue to increase every day.
Marine life is drowning in pollution. They die in their numbers as the day goes by, thus depleting their population and upsetting the balance in the ecosystem. Restoring this balance and saving the planet is no longer a job for the government. It is up to you to save mother Earth and start green living. Every little effort counts.