During our ocean unit for school we learned a lot of cool stuff about the ocean. One of my favorite things we did was reading these cute stories about the ocean. One of the books we read was not all cupcakes and rainbows. “The new ocean” by Bryan Bernard. Just a quick glance and the art in this book and you will be stunned by the beautiful detail, and the painful reality of what we are doing to our ocean.
What is a dead zone?
Here is the formal definition
a place or period in which nothing happens or in which no life exists.
In the 1970’s oceanographers began noticing a rising number of dead zones. Dead zones occur by coast lines where it is most densely populated with marine life. In 2004 when the UN Environment Programme published its first Global Environment Outlook (GEO) stating that 146 dead zones in the world could no longer support marine life due to depleting oxygen levels. Some of the dead zones are as small as a square kilometer. The largest dead zone is 8,776 square miles.
What causes dead zones?
Dead zones are low oxygen zones caused by fertilizer runoff. Within these fertilizers there is nitrogen and phosphorous wich in high amounts in the ocean can cause abscess growth of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria is a type of blue-green algae which is not really algae and will photosynthesize light into energy. Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae is not a bad thing and actually occurs naturally in ponds and oceans. But with too many nutrients cyanobacteria can grow out of control. This usually happens due to human activity and thus why dead zones are most often found by inhabited coastlines. In high amounts cyanobacteria can actually harm humans and marine life.
Hypoxic zones are areas in the ocean of such low oxygen concentration that animal life suffocates and dies, and as a result are sometimes called “dead zones.” One of the largest dead zones forms in the Gulf of Mexico every spring. Each spring as farmers fertilize their lands preparing for crop season, rain washes fertilizer off the land and into streams and rivers.
Coral bleaching happens when the water becomes too warm the coral becomes stressed. Warmer waters are caused by global warming. If you’re not sure what global warming is here is an article on it by National Geographic. Calm normal coral has algae that live on it, it is a symbiotic relationship meaning without one the other will die. When the water around a coral heats up it becomes stressed, when stressed the algae will leave the coral. The coral is now bleached and without its main source of food and protective covering and is now susceptible to disease.
What is pollution?
Here is the formal definition
the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.
What is OUR pollution doing to the ocean?
Here is a little diagram of the top ten different types of trash found on beaches:
But that’s not what always happens to our trash.
Humans love tuna, but did you know that if you eat more than two tuna fish sandwiches a day you are putting yourself at risk for brain damage? Not only that but kidney heart and lungs. Bluefin tuna is one of the most sought fish in the world. In 1979 the biggest Bluefin tuna recorded was 1496 pounds and has held that record for 40 years. I did some calculations and found that in the one tuna there was 496432.58 mcgs. The daily amount a human being should be consuming is 66.77 mcgs. Of course you wouldn’t be eating a whole Bluefin tuna yourself but the point is, is that our pollution has made them toxic to eat. Let me break it down.
First our trash gets into the ocean, rotten food, plastic containers, etc. phytoplankton eat that trash. Fish eat the phytoplankton thus eating the trash. That fish doesn’t just eat one phytoplankton, it eats thousands. That fish isn’t the only one who is eating thousands of fish are eating thousands of phytoplankton. Those fish get eaten by other larger fish. The trash get condensed further and further until it reaches the Bluefin tuna. The Bluefin tuna’s diet is of fish eel squid and zooplankton and other small organisms. Once it has reached the tuna the trash has so condensed that the tuna becomes toxic. Bluefin Tuna is endangered and numbers continue to fall. Tuna are not the only ones become to toxic to safely eat, Orca whales are now on that list. Like with the tuna the sea life eats trash until it reaches the top of its food chain the Orca.
Other ways pollution is harming our ocean
I think everyone loves turtles. They are cute and majestic creatures, but something horrible is happening. They are becoming painfully disfigured from six-pack rings. And it is not only turtles being harmed this way. Birds will get it stuck around their necks and will slowly suffocate, fish get stuck around their bodies impairing their swimming ability. It’s not just them that get caught. Seals get net wrapped around their necks, dolphins can swallow plastic bags the list goes on.
Our new ocean
As more marine life is dying and coral continues to bleach a new ocean is forming. Back ten of millions of years ago the ocean was a quiet and less colorful place. Blue green algae and jellyfish were the only sea life prominent. Jellyfish can thrive in just about any environment so long as there is water. It has no brain our heart, just stinging tentacles and a mouth. Their is actually a species of jellyfish that can theoretically live forever. That ocean was an unforgiving place, and by the looks of it that’s where our ocean is headed. Almost everything in this article are direct signs of ocean acidification.
What can we do to stop it?
Make it our top priority
The ocean is counting on us to stop the acidification that is going on. If we make it public enemy number one and put all of our efforts into solving the problem we may have a chance to slowly or even stop the process.
Watch your corbon footprint
Almost everything we use in our day to day lives uses greenhouse gases. We need to make a conscience effort. Bike instead of driving, turn off your lights when you’re not in the room, use paper bags instead of plastic, RECYCLE! there are so many more thing as well here is a website that can help you find out ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Let people know!
Tell everyone and anyone. Your friends, family and coworkers. The more people know the more likely chance people will catch on and make it a “trend” to help the ocean and in turn the Earth.
There are so many more click here to find out what other things you could do to help the ocean.
I hope you can take something away from this and you may even start to change your habits. Spred the world and help save OUR ocean.