Pollution

Our environment and seas are suffering different kinds of pollution. There is pollution by chemicals, by oil, by non-degradable materials, by radioactivity, by aquaculture, by noise and by radioactive waste.

Contaminants

The most common chemicals are dioxins, dioxine-like pcb’s, heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and fire retardants. Most of these materials are produced by humans and some of them are found in lesser extent in nature. Several study’s have been held researching the consequences these toxins have on human health. The quantity of dioxines found in the North-Sea have descended the last decades, but fish from the North-Sea still contains much more dioxines than fish from the south of the Indian – and Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile lots of other materials have end up in the environment, the sea en so the fish. An example of these is the group of toxic and carcinogenic fire retardants. The most european dioxines find there origin in industrial burningprocesses in a chlorine enviroment: metal casting, paperpulp-bleaching and the production of some pesticides and herbicides. Other big dioxin causes are for example incinerators. The biggest problem of dioxins is their extreme high chemical stability. Once they are once nested in an living organism, the dioxins stay there for a long time. They accumulate in the food chain, and the higher we are in the food chain, the higher the concentration dioxins.

Plastic

In the middle of the Pacific, there is an area as large as Western-Europe containing an enormous quantity of plastic waste: the “Plastic Soup”. Probably this is only an understatement; Some people estimate the size, twice as big as the United States. It concerns a gigantic quantity of floating plastic. This mass forms and is maintained by the whirlpool of the pacific; in turn, formed by tradewinds. The corners of the whirlpool are continuously in motion and have a higher sealevel, result of which the plastic stays concentrated in the centre. Today in every ocean these sorts of areas are found. In 2006 an UNEP-study (United Nations Evironment Programme) evidenced that on every square mile 46.000 plastic particals are roaming around; varying from lost slippers to minuscule particles. Many birds, crustaceans en seals get caught in plastic rings coming from sixpacks, plastic bags or nylon cords. Petrels are, like a lot of Sea Turtles opportunistic eaters. Some birds die caused by an object in their throat or a gastrointestal blocking by a large object. But a lot of animals weaken because the little plastic particals in their stomach cause a loss of appetite. The brain’s natural ‘Eat!’ impulse is suppressed, whereby the animals starve to death. 98% of the birds who where researched had plastic contents in their stomach, an average of 30 pieces. Millions of fishes and other marine mammals eat the little plastic parts, with attached chemical contaminations, because they are covered with algae.
These areas are found in common used fishing ground and so at the end the fish is found on your plate. This way the contagious plastic also forms an extra threat for human health. In the various kinds of plastics about 80.000 different toxines are found.

Noise

When talking about pollution of the ocean, people not often think of noise. Yet noise is disastrous for millions of animals a year: drilling for oil, driving windmills into the bottom and sonar. This way millions of whales, dolphins and other sealife will be killed by U.S. Navy. In particular The Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Navy ships use I.a. Sonar to track down submarines. Sonar is a growing threat, since president Bush in 2002 gave U.S. Navy permission to use sonar in 80% of the oceans. Active sonar consists of very loud sound pulses which are reflected by all big objects in the reach of these pulses. Whales lose their sense of orientation and this creates the famous strandings of dolphins and whales, the majority of animals die instantly when they come to close to these sonar sources; their ears and brain simply explode. These animals sink to the bottom, which lead to not knowing exactly how much animals lose their life during these sonartests. In 2004, president Bush signed a law to lessen the American environmental act apllied to the U..S. Navy. Then, in 2008, Bush signed an ‘Executive Order’, in which he consented that Navy would be exempted from environmental laws for the protection of endangered species. In the next 5 year (2010-2015) the American Navy will sacrifice millions of marine mammals and other marine life, for their ‘Warfare Testing Range Complex Expansions’ . These are already existing warfare testing programs which will be expanded on a bigger scale in the Atlantic, Pacific and in the Mexican Gulf. The National Marine Fisheries Service gave permission to kill marine mammals in more than a dozen Marine Warfare Test Programs en is preparing a new request in which, as a result – as they themselves indicate – 11,7 million … marine animals (32 different species) will die. With the growing amount of permits given for sonar-testprograms in more than 12 U.S. regions in the Pacific, the Mexican Gulf and the Atlantic, marine mammals en many other marine wildlife are doomed to be destroyed completely.

radioactivity

Ten years ago, radioactive discharges in the sea were a big problem. This form of pollution is reduced in recent years. Discharges of radioactivity by i.a. English nuclear companies in Sellafield has reduced with 75%. Current European discharges pose no more threat for marine fauna and flora, and are only a light burden on the people who consume it. What poses a huge threat is the enormous use of cooling water by nuclear power stations near the sea. All life in the cooling water is killed, also the numerous fish larvea and eggs. In the absence of research, it is difficult to judge if this only gives local damages or if this harmful effects are found in the Northsea, Irish- , Baltic-, or Japanese sea. In countries as Japan, England and France, a lot of nuclear power stations are near the coast. Consequences of this we were able to experience recently with the disaster in Fukushima.

Sources:

  • Winkel, Dos (red). 2010. De Huilende Zee. Elmar Uitgeverij.