It is estimated that 80 percent of ocean pollution originates on land. There has been significant progress in addressing marine pollution from land-based and ocean-based sources, by individuals and local communities; voluntary effort and regulatory action; and at the regional and global scale through agreement. But more needs to be done.
Nutrient pollution is caused by diverse sources including agricultural runoff and sewage and wastewater discharges. It overloads marine environments with high concentrations of nutrients, which can cause large algal blooms. Oxygen is consumed when these algae die and decay, creating “dead zones” where fish and other marine life cannot thrive. There are an estimated 600 dead zones in the world. Toxic algal blooms also harm economies as they can severely disrupt the fisheries and tourism upon which many communities depend. We need to raise awareness of the impacts from excess nutrients in the marine environment, and we need to take action to reduce the sources of these nutrients.
Marine debris is trash and other solid material that enters ocean and coastal waters. Marine debris threatens wildlife and presents health and safety concerns for humans. Plastics consistently make up a significant percent of all marine debris. There are many sources of marine debris, both on the ocean and on land, including beachgoers, improper disposal of trash on land, stormwater sewers and combined sewer overflow, ships and other vessels, industrial facilities, waste disposal activities, and offshore oil and gas platforms. Proper collection, handling, and recycling or disposal of trash, as well as reduction of consumption and packaging, can help to reduce the marine debris problem.
One of the most important ways to address these global challenges is to stop pollutants from entering the marine environment in the first place. There are many such efforts underway at the national, regional and international levels, but there is an urgent need to spur those efforts globally. That is one of the reasons why Secretary of State John Kerry convened the U.S. Department of State’s “Our Ocean” Conference -- and why marine pollution is one of the topics on the conference agenda. You can learn more about the conference and this critical issue at www.state.gov/ourocean.
For more information:
- Join Secretary of State John Kerry and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" for a Twitter Q&A at 10:00 a.m. EDT on June 17.
- Follow the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs (OES) on Twitter, and like OES on Facebook.