How To Save The Ocean (Solutions To Ocean Pollution, Degradation & Threats To Marine Life)

How To Save The Ocean (Solutions To Ocean Pollution, Degradation & Threats To Marine Life)

There’s several problems facing global oceans, coastlines and marine life

In this guide, we outline how we might save the ocean with solutions to ocean pollution, degradation and other ocean issues.

 

Summary – How To Save The Ocean

  • Limits and regulations on types and quantities of fishing allowed
  • More sustainable and ocean friendly fishing practices
  • Consumers can choose sustainable seafood, or switch to land sourced/produced sustainable food
  • Better protection of specific ocean species and organisms
  • Minimizing atmospheric CO2 from humans sources
  • Minimising (and managing) mercury release from human sources
  • Aim for more sustainable agricultural practices
  • Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water
  • Aim for more sustainable mining practices
  • Aim for more sustainable electricity production practices
  • Aim for more sustainable transport practices
  • Minimise air pollution
  • Minimise soil/land pollution and contamination
  • Minimise plastic waste, fishing equipment and other waste going into the ocean
  • Reduce freshwater pollution
  • Reduce run-off, leaching and direct dumping overall, and better manage, treat and dispose of waste overall (that ends up in the ocean)
  • Explore the benefits of on-shore fish farming and aqua culture either as an alternative or complement to ocean fishing
  • Aim for more sustainable offshore drilling and mining practices
  • Invest in alternate income sources for citizens in countries where they rely on destructive ocean tourism to make a living
  • Regulate beachfront development to minimize environmental damage
  • + other solutions for other macro and micro issues

What we see overall is that the air/atmosphere, land/soil, freshwater sources and the ocean on Earth all interact between each other – when one is degraded or polluted/contaminated, it can pollute or contaminate the others.

The ocean absorbs gases, but also wet and dry chemical and physical substances and material from various sources.

Humans can heavily contribute to ocean pollution and degradation via our fishing practices, and our pollution and waste.

 

Limits and regulations on types and quantities of fishing allowed

  • Addresses: overfishing

Overfishing leads to the significant reduction in, and sometimes complete collapse of, certain species of fish and other sea life in different parts of the ocean around the world.

For example, certain species of fish might be overfished in parts of the US compared to parts of Australia.

This has a domino effect because the marine ecosystem relies on healthy numbers of organisms and marine life to support one another. Humans also rely on healthy populations of fish and other marine life to make a living from and eat.

New regulations and limits for fishing that protect certain species and marine life, or, better enforcement of these limits and regulations in different locations and seas – can help limit overfishing before it reaches a detrimental point.

 

More sustainable and ocean friendly fishing practices

  • Addresses: ocean degradation, risk to marine life

Certain fishing practices degrade and destroy the ocean environment, and endanger marine life as well

One example of this is drag net fishing that can destroy coral, and endanger dolphins and other marine life.

Banning fishing practices that are too destructive, and encouraging or promoting sustainable fishing practices that are productive yet more environmentally friendly can help address this.

 

Consumers can choose sustainable seafood, or switch to land sourced/produced sustainable food

  • Addresses: ocean degradation, risk to marine life

Consumers can take the onus on themselves to ask/demand that the seafood they buy is sourced/caught with sustainable fishing practices.

You can go to a local seafood seller and ask how the seafood they order is caught.

If they don’t know – there’s a chance they were caught with commercial fishing operations that might use unsustainable fishing methods.

Once you find a seafood seller that buys sustainably caught seafood, you can stick with them.

Another option if you can’t find a seafood seller that sells sustainably caught seafood, is to eat less seafood, or switch to other food that is sustainably grown or produced.

For example, you might be able to find a vegetable/fruit shop, or a butcher that sources sustainably grown food (sustainable for producers, animals, water, land, air and resources used to grow/produce the food)

NOTE: consult a medical professional before changing your diet – the above is not advice or a recommendation to change your diet.

 

Better protection of specific ocean species and organisms

  • Addresses: species endangerment and extinction

Some marine life are already at dangerously low levels.

This includes coral in certain parts of the world, as well as sharks, whales, some fish species, and so on.

Adding more marine life to protected lists and banning, heavily penalising and watching for practices that negatively impact these species can help protect them.

It also helps if the general public have data on species and organisms that need to be protected, and why, so that they can understand this need. So, transparency and communication/awareness is a big thing.

 

Minimising atmospheric CO2 from human sources

  • Addresses: ocean pH change, ocean temperature change, ocean oxygen levels, species endangerment and risk to marine life

Pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere from human activities like burning fossil fuels for electricity production and transport means that that CO2 is eventually absorbed by the ocean.

This can create a range of problems such as a changing of the pH levels of the water (acidification), temperature change in the water, and oxygen levels in the water decreasing.

Ocean water health and having ocean water at optimal levels for marine life to thrive is critical to a healthy ocean.

Renewable energy, nuclear energy, and electric and alternative cars can go a long way to helping minimise atmospheric CO2.

Engineering the ocean has also been tried in the past.

One of the most important organisms in the ocean is plankton (who produce half the world’s oxygen via photosynthesis). Warming waters put plankton at risk long term, which in turn puts our long term breathable air at risk.

 

Minimising (& managing) mercury release from human sources

  • Addresses: wild life health risks, human health risks

It’s estimated to humans have increased mercury levels in the environment by three fold compared to natural mercury levels. Humans release mercury into the environment mainly via scale gold mining, fossil fuel burning and primary production of non-ferrous metals (wikipedia.org).

Mercury gets into the ocean mainly via the atmospheric gases (but also other ways – via wet and dry forms). 

It can impact marine life health, but also humans as a result of us eating seafood with mercury in it.

Better monitoring of the release of mercury from the above human activities, or reducing those activities, can help reduce or manage mercury release as an environmental and health issue. Other approaches to the problem are synthetic coral reefs that absorb the mercury from the water once already in the ocean.

Burning fossil fuels also happens heavily in electricity production (coal and gas), and transport (petroleum and oil) – so, moving towards renewable energy and electric or green energy cars might help reduce mercury release.

 

Aim for more sustainable agricultural practices

  • Addresses: ocean degradation, eutrophication, dead spots, algal blooms, species endangerment and more

Agriculture is responsible for a lot of freshwater pollution, which can then find it’s way into the ocean.

Fertilizer that is heavy in nitrates runs off and leaches into the soil and into water sources, which can lead to eutrophication, dead spots and algal blooms.

Harmful pesticides can also run off and causes health risks for aquatic wild life.

Better agricultural practices that minimise this run off/leaching, or use different and less harmful chemicals (such as organic or natural fertilizers and pest control), can help reduce these issues.

 

Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water

  • Addresses: ocean degradation, ocean pollution, wild life loss

Sewage and wastewater are the main causes of ocean water pollution (more than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused).

This is particularly a problem in developing nations where sewage and waste water treatment infrastructure is lacking, or regulations/laws are not sufficient.

Better management and treatment of sewage and waste water, and preventing illegal or harmful dumping straight into the ocean can help address this problem.

 

Aim for more sustainable mining practices

  • Addresses: ocean degradation and pollution, risks to wild life

Mining is responsible for huge amounts of waste, and sometimes the release and leaching, run-off and dumping toxic and hazardous chemicals.

Heavy metals, air pollutants, greenhouse gases and tailings are all examples of waste and contaminants released by mining activities.

Tailing for example can be dumped straight into the ocean in some parts of the world (although it is illegal in some countries).

Hazardous waste and substances, and general mining waste needs to be tracked, reported, managed, treated and disposed of properly – and definitely not dumped in or near the ocean.

 

Aim for more sustainable electricity production practices

  • Addresses: ocean pollution via acidification and acid rain

Using fossil fuels like coal and gas to produce electricity contributes to air pollution … the ocean then absorbs these gases and even heavy metals like mercury.

Acidification and acid rain can be issues for the ocean when the air is polluted.

Moving towards cleaner energy (like renewables, and to a lesser extent nuclear) can help combat this form of air pollution and ocean pollution.

 

Aim for more sustainable transport practices

  • Addresses: ocean pollution

Stormwater runoff and rainfall carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces like roadways and pavements into our waterways … which can then find their way into oceans.

Conventional cars also put greenhouse gases and air pollutants into the atmosphere .. which the ocean absorbs.

Moving towards electric cars and alternative fuel vehicles can help prevent direct leaching into the ocean and also atmospheric absorption of gases by the ocean.

 

Minimise air pollution

  • Addresses: ocean pollution

Air pollutants are absorbed into the ocean via gases, but also run-off from soil (when, for example, acid rain rains on soil).

Nitrates and sulfurs for example (and other contaminants) can be absorbed into the ocean from the air, from acid rain, or from contaminated soils.

Major causes of air pollution are vehicles and fossil fuel electricity plants – so moving towards cleaner transport and energy production would help in addressing this problem.

 

Minimise soil and land pollution 

  • Addresses: ocean pollution

Soil can be contaminated in a myriad of ways by various contaminants.

Chemical contamination occurs from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from agriculture, but also hazardous waste from industry & residential sectors – just as a few examples.

Contaminants in soil can leach/run-off into both freshwater sources and the ocean (rivers and streams can carry contaminants into the ocean).

Like mentioned above, moving towards more sustainable practices across various industries and sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining etc. would result in less soil contamination, and less run off into oceans.

 

Minimise plastic waste, fishing equipment & other waste going into the ocean

  • Addresses: ocean degradation and pollution

We’ve written guides about some of the most common waste in the ocean and on beaches:

Plastic (bags, bottles, caps/lids etc.) and cigarettes by far seems to be the most common rubbish found on beaches.

Fishing gear, industrial rubbish, micro-plastic, and land based rubbish (similar to that found on beaches) is common in oceans.

Reducing ghost fishing and better regulating the amount of fishing gear waste that ends up in the ocean is one way to do this.

From an on-land perspective, we can limit industrial waste and plastic waste that ends up in the ocean.

We can better monitor which companies or industries are causing the most ocean pollution (especially with hazardous waste or waste that contaminates), but also identify rivers that carry plastic into the ocean:

  • Plastic enters the ocean from many different sources, and rivers contribute greatly. The Yangtze, Ganges and Xi are the main offenders, with China and India being home to most of the plastic polluted rivers
  • Asia contributed to 86% of river plastic pollution in 2015

 

Reduce fresh water pollution

  • Addresses: ocean pollution

Fresh water pollution occurs from many sources – but, agriculture is one of the main offenders (nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides).

Fresh water contamination of rivers and streams that run into the ocean, will eventually carry contaminants into that ocean.

Reducing or changing the fresh water contaminants (to more natural chemicals and substances, or modified chemicals and substances) from other sectors and industries can help reduce ocean contamination and pollution.

 

Reduce run off, leaching and direct dumping overall, and better manage, treat and dispose of on-land waste overall (that end’s up in the ocean)

  • Addresses: ocean degradation, ocean pollution, risks to marine life

Overall, gases, and wet and dry substances can be absorbed by the ocean directly, they can be dumped into the ocean, and then can run-off or leach into the ocean via various sources.

Better managing, treating and disposing of on land waste and hazardous material will help minimise the above from happening.

We’ve given many examples of this above, but you can read more examples of water pollution in this guide.

Have better waste treatment, management and disposal in the agricultural, industrial (factories etc), electricity production, mining and household sectors to prevent direct dumping and regulated dumping of hazardous and other harmful chemicals and substances into the ocean

Harmful and hazardous chemicals enter freshwater sources and the ocean via gases in the atmosphere, and also via wet and dry chemical substances in the soil and via direct dumping.

 

Explore the benefits of on-shore fish farming and aqua culture either as an alternative or complement to ocean fishing

  • Addresses: overfishing, ocean degradation

Although aquaculture and on-land fish farming has it’s own set of pros and cons, it has the potential to be a good alternative or complement to ocean fishing.

In particular, it can help address species collapse and overfishing, and help restore numbers of species that are endangered or closing in on extinction.

 

Aim for more sustainable offshore drilling and mining practices

  • Addresses: ocean degradation and pollution, risks to marine life

 

  • When oil is extracted from the ocean floor, other chemicals like mercury, arsenic, and lead come up with it.
  • Also, the seismic waves used to find oil harm aquatic mammals and disorient whales.

Offshore drilling and mining in some parts of our oceans need to become more sustainable to prevent the above from happening.

Whether that involves scientific advancements, alternate practices and strategies or mining in different locations – there are options.

 

Invest in alternate income sources for citizens in countries where they rely on destructive ocean tourism to make a living

  • Addresses: ocean degradation and pollution

Some developing nations don’t have enough jobs, so citizens rely on and destroy the ocean to make a living from tourism (tours, boat and jet ski rides, etc.)

Investment by local and foreign countries can help prevent this by creating more jobs and stimulating the economy.

Over exploitation of oceans in developed countries for tourism is also an issue.

 

Regulate beachfront development to minimise environmental damage

  • Addresses: ocean degradation

Clear boundaries should be set to prevent beachfront development from damaging the ocean.

Enforcement of these boundaries codified in regulations will help conserve the ocean and the beachfront.

 

Other solutions

Other solutions might be centered around other problems such as:

  • Irresponsible fish farming
  • Oil spills from ocean transport
  • Melting ice caps
  • + more

Read this guide for a list of problems currently facing our oceans.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/16-biggest-problems-for-our-oceans-coasts-marine-life/ 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_pollution_in_the_ocean

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/water-pollution-causes-sources-examples-effects-prevention-solutions/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/plastic-pollution-causes-sources-effects-solutions/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-common-types-of-waste-found-in-oceans-on-beaches/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-common-plastic-waste-generated-found-on-beaches-in-oceans-on-land/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-reduce-your-ocean-beach-rubbish-footprint-based-on-marine-waste-stats/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/land-pollution-land-degradation-soil-contamination-causes-sources-effects-problems-solutions/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/outdoor-air-pollution-causes-sources-examples-effects-prevention-solutions/

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