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This article has been written by Harsha Singh.

Abstract

The detrimental effects of plastic waste, oil spills, chemicals fertilisers, etc. on marine life was studied in this article. Marine creatures are vastly affected by plastic debris and chemicals to the point of mutations and even death. Marine pollution jeopardizes their survival rate especially when many sea animals are either close to extinction or have already gone extinct. The article focuses mainly on the oil spills that happen in numerous accounts everywhere which leads to sea creatures’ mutation, affecting the insulation ability of them and even birds which depend on dipping in the water bodies for food. 

Their affected insulation ability leads them to develop Hyperthermia which further leads to death. Some ways to prevent such oil spills along with examples of accidents that have happened in the past years has been discussed in this paper. Finally, the article discusses the role of big corporations in greatly harming marine life and destroying their ecosystems. Different industries such as the energy-producing industry, the plastic producing industry, the agrochemical industry i.e. the companies producing chemical pesticides, and lastly the meat and dairy industry have been focused on addressing how all these industries harm the water bodies one way or another. 

Introduction

Marine pollution is a growing problem in today’s world, day after different coastal areas are getting affected, the water bodies are getting polluted more and more despite the promises of the authorities in charge and the will of the people. Sea animals are getting harmed and are going extinct at a very fast pace and that isn’t good for the environment at all. Marine pollution is the polluting of the water bodies where most of the pollutants travel from land to the water. There are many pollutants but mainly chemicals and trash are the biggest culprits in this case. The chemicals from factories such as pesticides, travel to the water bodies through smaller water bodies such as a river and enter the larger body to further contaminate it. The chemicals from oil spills are also a big cause of concern as they hugely harm marine life. Trash mainly includes plastic waste which comes in as a pollutant in many ways as it’s one of the most common types of material found in every household but the big corporations have a much larger hand in contributing to plastic waste. Another type of pollutant is energy waste. Emitting greenhouse gases cause ocean acidification which further harms marine life. 

Oil Spills

Oil spills are the process of spilling oil on the surface of a water body. It happens a lot more than one can imagine. Small oil spills can happen when refuelling a ship while large spills happen when factory pipelines burst, big oil tankers sink or drilling goes wrong. Either way, oil spills are very harmful to marine life and the ecosystem in general. One of the largest accidental oil spills in history was in the Gulf of Mexico where a newly installed cement well cap was installed by the deepwater horizon to seal a dwelling burst. The spill rose to the platform and ignited, killing 11 workers and injuring 17. The spill amounted to some 134 million gallons of oil which made the gulf completely unavailable to the people who depended on it for some time and severely damaged the marine life there. A lawsuit was followed in which the company BP gave a total of $65 billion dollars to the people affected. This was the case in 2010. 

However, things aren’t getting any better with the destruction the oil spills are creating. Just this year in the month of February tons of tar washed up at the coast of Israel from Roshhanikara to Ashkelon. It also affected the southern coast of south Lebanon. Sightings stated that multiple sea creatures like fishes, turtles etc. washed up on the beaches covered in black. The government states the entire ecosystem of the coast has been damaged and that clean up will take months to years.

Similarly, currently in Trinidad, due to the negligence of The Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited, oil has been spilling from the pipeline of their refinery ‘Pointe a Pierre’ into the gulf of Paria covering the vast majority of the water body in oil. The company stated that they’ll take immediate action for the same and start a cleanup process however not much action has been taken yet. Gary Aboud, corporate secretary of the Advocacy group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) stated that the oil keeps spilling and they have contacted IMA, EMA, the ministry of energy however they got no response and fishing is dying in that area.

These kinds of disastrous situations keep happening and the people responsible don’t take full responsibility and nature keeps getting tampered with and damaged.

The Mauritius oil spill situation also happened last year where ‘The Wakashio’, one of the biggest bulk carrier ships, was taking an oil shipment from China to Brazil through the Indian ocean. However, on 25th July 2020, the ship struck a coral reef near the Mauritius southeast coast and broke up little by little letting out around 1000 tons of toxic fuels in the water body destroying the livelihood of so many fishermen and tourism workers. Over 50 dolphins and whales died judging by the carcasses of their bodies which washed up on the coasts. The government decided to shield the company and there was no transparency in this case.

Effects of oil spills on marine life

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric department of the US lists multiple threats to marine life that are caused by oil spills:

  • Because of oil spills, the insulating capacity of sea creatures like otters get destroyed and water-repelling capacity of birds also gets severely affected due to which birds and mammals can get hypothermia which can also result in death.
  • Sea turtles can get trapped in the oil and mistake it for food. Dolphins and whales can also inhale the oil which will further affect their lungs, overall respiratory system and reproductive system. 
  • A lot of birds and animals also ingest the oil when they are cleaning themselves.
  • An adult fish, because of the oil, can experience reduced growth, enlarged lives, fin erosion and reproductive impairment.

Prevention of oil spills

Prevention of oil spills is very necessary considering just one time is enough to destroy the whole ecosystem of a water body including killing and mutating sea animals. The prevention can start by:

  • Giving the crew basic and thorough training regarding Containment of oil in refineries and shipments. 
  • They should make sure that all the nuts and bolts are properly secured. 
  • Tankers and shipments should be changed in time so that old and poor condition doesn’t threaten an unexpected leak. 
  • A good sum of money should be spent on the infrastructure which contains the oil so that it is of good quality and sustainable. 

Role of big corporations in harming the marine life

When it comes to destroying nature, big corporations take the lead. The huge chunk of waste they produce harm both the environment on land, air and water. They exploit nature to capitalize on it and in turn throw more waste into it. Plastic waste has been the highlight for quite some time when it comes to spreading awareness regarding marine pollution. But plastic waste is just one type of waste as in addition to its carbon emissions and oil also are part of the pollution of water bodies. In 2019, the 24/7 wall street combined and made a list of 20 corporations that play a major role in polluting the ocean.

For energy corporations

Saudi Aramco, the Saudi based gas giant took the first place by being the biggest emitter of Greenhouse gases in the fossil fuel sector according to the CDP. The burning of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases which then cause ocean acidification which is a harmful process to the water bodies.

Gazprom, the state owned Russian gas giant and National Iranian Oil took second and third place respectively in this sector.

Plastic waste

The Atlanta based beverage corporation, Coca Cola took first position at being the world’s biggest plastic waste producer, polluting the oceans and sending plastic particles in the food chain as researched by Greenpeace and Break free in 2018. In 2018 it was also revealed that the beverage company uses 3 million tones of plastic packaging every year.

The research by Greenpeace and Break free also concluded that the North Carolina based beverage company PepsiCo and the Swiss company Nestle take second and third place respectively for being one of the biggest producers of plastic waste.

Agro chemical companies

The German based pharmaceutical company called Bayer became the  biggest supplier of seed and agricultural chemicals. These pesticides flow into the rivers and from there it is further carried into the oceans polluting the water bodies becoming a non point source of water pollution. These chemicals enter the coastal ecosystems and damage them.

Before Bayer, the Switzerland based Chinese owned company used to be the largest supplier of seed and agricultural chemicals however in 2017 it became the second largest company in this sector. Another German based company known as BASF took third place.

Meat and dairy industry 

Meat farming contributes to emission of greenhouse gases which in turn cause ocean acidification which further causes great harm to the marine ecosystems. Additionally according to PETA it takes around 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat. JBS, the Brazilian multinational company is the world’s biggest meat processor. According to the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy and the international non-profit organization called GRAIN, JBS is also the biggest individual greenhouse gases emitter in the global food industry.

Arkansas based Tyson foods and Minnesota based Cargill , a privately owned corporation take second and third places for the corporations responsible for some of the biggest greenhouse gases emitters according to the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Conclusion

According to UNESCO, land based sources such as agricultural runoffs, pesticides, factory chemicals and untreated sewage including plastic add up to 80% of the marine pollution. The United Nations Environment Programme estimated in 2006 every square mile of ocean has around 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Plastic debris causes the death of around a million seabirds every year and more than 100,000 marine mammals. 

The CIEL in 2020 reported that out of 275 million metric tons of plastic that is produced each year, 12 million of it finds its way to the water bodies wreaking havoc for marine life and ruining their ecosystems. Not only are the sea creatures being affected by this pollution where fish genetics are getting changed and mutated, human life is also being compromised. WHO stated that globally , nearly 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated won’t feces and harmful chemicals  which can transmit diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery etc.. Every year, different countries as a whole try to battle marine pollution however the waste which ends up in the water bodies and contaminating them just keeps on increasing each year. 

Common folks are trying their best to reduce their plastic usage such as the banning of plastic straw trend which started around 2018, many big chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks replaced their plastic straws with paper ones or made their cups drinkable. This made showed a lot of growth in many places for example, in a research conducted by the Ocean Park Conservation foundation reveals that plastic straw usage in Hong Kong from 2017 to 2020 went from 1.7 billion to 1 billion signifying a 40% drop but the research further stated that it’s overall plastic waste increased 10% from 2017 to 2018 proving that merely stopping the consumption of plastic straw doesn’t do much for the overall plastic wastage. Aside from individuals, big corporations are responsible for a huge chunk of waste in the ocean as stated in this paper. They pledge to do better but their waste just keeps on increasing. In the end , all sectors have to be taken into consideration when it comes to battling marine pollution because it is coming from everywhere.


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