The cargo ship CS Crystal's owner was fined a record-breaking €140,000 for air pollution while docked in the port of Marseille. This unprecedented penalty underscores a tightening of legislation in the realm of marine pollution.
Why is marine pollution so harmful?
Marine pollution poses a significant threat to the health of our oceans, marine ecosystems, and human well-being. The discharge of harmful substances into marine environments has devastating consequences for marine life, including the degradation of coral reefs, the destruction of habitats, and the disruption of delicate ecological balances. It also impacts human health, as consuming contaminated seafood can lead to toxin ingestion and cause severe health issues. The maritime transport industry, offshore activities, and inappropriate waste management practices contribute to the accumulation of pollutants in our seas.
What are the primary causes of marine pollution?
Accidental or deliberate oil spills due to tanker accidents or illegal oil discharges are a major source of marine pollution. These spills harm marine life, cover coastlines in a thick layer of sludge, and result in long-lasting ecological and economic consequences. A recent example is the incident on January 15, 2022, when nearly 12,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled into the sea off the coast of Peru from a tanker unloading at the La Pampilla refinery. The resultant oil spill affected more than 174 hectares of beach - an area equivalent to 270 football fields - killing birds, sea lions, and penguins. It is estimated that over 700,000 people were affected by the oil spill, and more than 20 beaches and dozens of businesses had to shut their doors.
Plastics, abandoned fishing gear, and other types of marine debris also contribute to pollution. At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, equivalent to one truckload per minute. Plastic debris is currently the most abundant type of waste in the oceans, accounting for 80% of all marine debris. Marine species ingest plastic debris or become entangled in it, causing severe injuries or even death. Under the influence of UV radiation, wind, currents, and other natural factors, plastic breaks down into small particles called micro- or nanoplastics. Their small size makes them easily accidentally ingested by marine fauna and flora.
The discharge of ballast water containing invasive species has led to the spread of non-native organisms, disrupting local ecosystems and causing ecological imbalances. This includes bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts, and larvae of various species. The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and economic well-being of the planet. These species cause massive damage to biodiversity and the precious natural resources of the earth that we depend on.
How to Mitigate Marine Pollution
Addressing plastic marine pollution necessitates strategies implemented from the earliest possible point. Rivers, often used as waste disposal sites, significantly contribute to this issue. Plastic Fischer, a pioneer in this field, has developed an innovative technology called "TrashBoom" to curb plastic pollution from rivers. This German-based company designed a floating barrier that effectively halts most plastics in rivers. To foster worldwide involvement, Plastic Fischer has made the TrashBoom's blueprints and building instructions freely accessible on their website.
Harnessing advanced technologies can also play a crucial role in curbing marine pollution. For instance, Australia's governmental agency, CSIRO, developed an efficient technique using a typical household sponge to remove small oil droplets post-oil spill cleanup. This sponge, coated with a "superhydrophobic" polystyrene-based polymer, excels at repelling water while absorbing oil from oil-water emulsions. This scalable and cost-effective solution can be recycled and reused after mechanical compression, making it a sustainable option.
International collaborations among governments, industry stakeholders, and environmental organizations are essential for enforcing marine protection regulations and holding polluters accountable. International agreements, like the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), lay down the standards for preventing marine pollution. Additionally, setting up adequate port waste reception facilities can promote the proper disposal of ship-generated waste, thereby inhibiting the discharge of pollutants into the sea.
GLOBAL MARINE's Crusade Against Marine Pollution
GLOBAL MARINE experts are committed to ensuring a sustainable future where our oceans teem with life, marine ecosystems flourish, and seas continue to inspire and nurture future generations. The fight against marine pollution is a collective endeavor crucial for preserving our oceans and securing the well-being of future generations. By enforcing stringent regulations, leveraging technological innovations, raising public awareness, and fostering international collaborations, we can mitigate the causes and impacts of marine pollution. The mission of GLOBAL MARINE is to spearhead these efforts, creating a positive impact on our marine ecosystems.