15 shocking facts about pollution in the oceans that will scare you
Pollution in the ocean is a BIG problem, bigger than most people realise. In this article I share with you 15 scary facts that will astound you. So what exactly are the issues with pollution in our ocean and why should we care? Read on to find out…
- Pollution in our oceans- what you should know
- 1. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in the ocean
- 2. 500 marine locations across the globe are classed as dead zones
- 3. There is an ocean trash site double the size of Texas
- 4. 70% of debris sinks
- 5. 100 million marine animals die from plastic pollution in the oceans
- 6. Chemical contamination is rife
- 7. Noise pollution is an issue too
- 8. China is responsible for the most plastic water pollution
- 9. Most developing countries dispose of 70% of industrial waste in the ocean
- 10. Cleaning products can cause an issue too
- 11. 706 million gallons of waste oil enters the ocean each year
- 12. Cruise ships are huge polluters
- 13. By 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish
- 14. Pollution in the oceans can impact human health
- 15. There is more microplastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way
- Plastic in our oceans- To conclude
Pollution in our oceans- what you should know
Oceans cover over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface – and we have explored only around 10% of them. But they are vital to our survival, and provide so much beauty for our planet. And sadly, we haven’t looked after them as well as we should.
Pollution in the oceans is absolutely rife, and devastatingly it’s just getting worse. Today I want to share 15 shocking facts about pollution in the oceans that will scare you… Not because I want to upset you, of course, but to help you understand how bad the situation is getting. It’s so important to talk about this if we want to change anything!
1. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in the ocean
That’s a number you probably can’t even begin to imagine. It’s an estimate, but plastic waste is one of the biggest ocean polluters. You’ll be familiar with the images of turtles strangled by plastic can rings, and this is just scratching the surface of the amount of plastic waste filling our oceans. From crisp packets to straws to empty bottles of sunscreen, our beautiful oceans are full of plastic that will never disappear.
Shane Brown, a marine photographer, has gained millions of followers on TikTok from his ocean clean up videos. He regularly dives below the surface and showcases the amount of trash underwater – hair ties, fishing gear and so much more. You can read an insightful interview with him HERE.
2. 500 marine locations across the globe are classed as dead zones
A dead zone in an ocean is a place where there is simply not enough oxygen available for any plants or animals, marine life of any kind, to survive. Places which were once really biodiverse ecosystems are now completely devoid of any life, with everything having died or escaped to a different part of the ocean. In the past 70 years, the number of dead zones in our oceans has increased tenfold – from just 50 to the estimated 500 that exist today thanks to pollution in the oceans.
The good news, though, is that these dead zones CAN recover. According to the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, hypoxic waters in the Black Sea, the Hudson River, and San Francisco Bay are among a small number of dead zones that have started to bounce back. Restoring oxygen-depleted areas to the thriving ecosystems they once were by tackling root causes such as agricultural runoff is not only possible but also imperative.
3. There is an ocean trash site double the size of Texas
An ocean trash site is a floating island of debris, made up of rubbish dumped into the water by rigs and cargo ships. A lot of this is made up of fishing gear, but plenty of electronics, toys, clothes and more end up in these places.
The biggest is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is located in the The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. It is dangerously big, covering so much space – and it’s not that easy to measure given that even more waste will be lying beneath the surface of this particular area. It is one of the worst examples of pollution in the oceans.
4. 70% of debris sinks
It is said that around 70% of the rubbish and waste that ends up in the ocean sinks, with the other 30% floating or ending up back on the beaches.
With so much of our debris sinking, it is much harder to clean up as we need to be underwater to do so. Individuals, like TikToker Shane Brown who I mentioned earlier, can only do so much. It is much easier to arrange and organise small-scale clean up operations of floating waste, but to find and retrieve all of the underwater debris is really difficult and of course more costly.
5. 100 million marine animals die from plastic pollution in the oceans
Before we even get into other forms of pollution in the oceans, one of my 15 shocking facts about pollution is this: 100 million animals die every year just due to plastic waste in the water. Whether this is from ingesting them, choking, getting caught in something and being unable to free themselves… it’s a horrifying statistic.
Recent studies have found plastic pollution in 100% of turtles, 59% of whales and 36% of seals. Our actions are slowly harming and ultimately killing so many beautiful sea creatures, who are just trying to exist and thrive in the habitat they should safely be able to call their own. This is why being responsible as a tourist or citizen is so important, and why we need to ensure corporations and our governments do more about plastic pollution in our oceans.
6. Chemical contamination is rife
Plastic pollution isn’t the only issue we need to consider when thinking about pollution in the oceans. Chemical contamination is very damaging too; the majority of this comes from fertiliser used on farms. The runoff of chemicals into waterways which (eventually) end up in the oceans is one of the biggest dangers. There are more chemicals in our water than ever before, which is harmful to all types of marine life and the wider environment.
And this, of course, has a knock on effect. As places get more damaged, they generally become less beautiful – meaning they become less of a draw for tourists. In turn, people can lose their jobs and areas lose the income and economy they are used to. On top of all of this, chemical damage to certain parts of the ocean can mean a lack of food availability due to the death of certain species of fish.
7. Noise pollution is an issue too
You might not think of this one when considering pollution in the oceans, but noise pollution is in fact a big deal underwater too. And most of it is caused by us – humans. Mass cargo shipping, parties on big cruise ships, oil exploration, seismic surveys… these are all activities which create a lot of noise and therefore pollute the ocean in their own way.
Many marine animals rely on their hearing for survival – being able to hear their food source making its way into the area, or on the opposite end of the scale listening out for their own predators. High levels of noise pollution, of course, can lead to hearing loss in animals which then disrupts the natural order of things below the surface of our oceans.
8. China is responsible for the most plastic water pollution
In terms of mismanaged plastic waste entering our oceans, China is top of the list with a huge 8.80m metric tons making their way into the water every single year.
China is obviously one of the biggest producers of electrical goods, electronic machinery, footwear, clothing, and other textiles. It goes without saying, perhaps, that they will have a lot more waste than other countries do – their exports coupled with having the largest population in the world. Sadly, a lot of this waste does seem to end up in the waterways – this leads to pollution in the oceans.
9. Most developing countries dispose of 70% of industrial waste in the ocean
And they do so without treating it, causing pollution in the oceans. Developing countries do not tend to have the money or resources to treat their waste, but they need to get rid of it somehow – this means we end up with harmful industrial waste making its way into our oceans and continuing to further pollute them.
The UN has goals in place (their 17 Sustainable Development Goals) which aim to improve life on earth for ALL, and one big theme of these goals is aid developing countries with things like this; helping them to level up, which in turn helps the planet as a whole.
10. Cleaning products can cause an issue too
We might not think about it, but something as simple as cleaning our toilet can cause pollution in the oceans. This is because the chemicals in your cleaning products are getting flushed into our waterways, which eventually flow into the ocean.
Since the rise of ‘cleaning influencers’, people are using a LOT more cleaning products; there are videos of people making patterns in their sink out of four different cleansers, all of which go down the drain and pollute our water. Natural and eco-friendly cleaning products are being developed regularly, and making a switch to those is a great way to play a small but helpful part in preventing ocean pollution.
It is also really important not to flush sanitary products, or cleaning wipes that aren’t specially formulated to be flushable. Flushing things which shouldn’t be flushed not only damages your own plumbing system (which can be gross and expensive) it is also terrible for the environment because of the impact it has on our oceans.
11. 706 million gallons of waste oil enters the ocean each year
Oil in our oceans is terrible for marine life – it can poison them, kill them, destroy the insulating properties of their fur and so much more. When fish and other sea creatures ingest oil and are then caught to be eaten, this obviously makes the food we’re eating contaminated – another knock on effect caused by pollution in the oceans.
This oil in the ocean is caused by accidents occurring with rigs, storage, boats and more. It is costly to clean up, and really contaminates the water; oil and water don’t mix, so the oil just sits on top of the ocean spreading further and further, turning into a rainbow when the sun shines on it. While this might look pretty (if surreal) in some circumstances, rest assured that it is a terrible danger for our environment.
12. Cruise ships are huge polluters
While cruise holidays are an amazing experience, giving you the chance to wake up in a new city each day and explore ancient monuments, breathtaking beaches, quaint cities and religious landmarks in the space of a week or two, they are huge polluters. I’ve already touched on them being incredibly noisy (and therefore contributing to noise pollution) but there are plenty of other reasons why these ocean giants are bad for the water and wider environment.
Cruise ships generate, on average, 15 gallons of toxic chemicals every day. These are released into the ocean through something called a bilge tank; oily water spills out of them, causing all of the issues related to oils and chemicals in water. Steps are being taken to reduce the amount of chemicals needed to power a cruise ship, and hopefully the future of cruising is a lot greener in terms of pollution in the oceans!
13. By 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish
Laid out like this, it’s a horrifying statistic. Scientists and researchers estimate that if things keep going the way they are, then there will be more plastic (by weight) in our oceans than there are fish. This is why recycling and properly disposing of waste is so important; it’s as simple as taking your litter home with you after a day at the beach, because this tiny act of humanity prevents cans, bottles and carrier bags being swept into the water.
Of course, it is corporations and governments who are most able to solve the issue by putting regulations and procedures in place whereby plastic waste *doesn’t* end up being disposed of as pollution in the oceans. But we can all do our bit, too!
14. Pollution in the oceans can impact human health
As with all forms of pollution, it’s not just the planet itself which is at risk. Human health is definitely impacted – eating contaminated seafood is the biggest way in which pollution in the oceans is harmful to humans.
From an NIH article, The chemicals used to manufacture a range of products, from consumer goods and food packaging to cleaning products and pesticides, also end up in the seas. Of the thousands of manufactured chemicals and chemical mixtures that pollute the world’s oceans, humans are most likely to be exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated substances, and pesticides through eating contaminated seafood.
These chemicals have been shown to cause a wide range of health effects in humans such as cardiovascular disease, developmental and neurobehavioral disorders, metabolic disease, immune dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and cancers.
15. There is more microplastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way
Let’s finish this list of 15 shocking facts about pollution in the oceans that will scare you with a shocking statistic: yes, there is more microplastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way. If that doesn’t make it clear how big the issue of plastic waste in our oceans is, then I don’t know what will…
Plastic in our oceans- To conclude
If this article about pollution in the oceans was interesting to you, you might enjoy these other blog posts I’ve written!
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