“You wouldn’t think you could kill an ocean, would you? But we’ll do it one day. That’s how negligent we are.” — Ian Rankin

There is no doubt that wherever we are on this planet, we are somehow connected to the ocean. Oceans are the source of all the existing life on this planet and are the primary regulators of the global climate system. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planet’s water. Also, the ocean has the world’s largest ecosystem, and it is home to millions of known and unknown marine species. Over 3 billion people depend on marine life for their livelihood.

Unfortunately, our oceans are getting polluted day by day. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants enter our oceans every year.  And it's because of man-made pollution which can be referred to as Marine pollution.  The United Nations Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of  Marine Pollution defines marine pollution as the: "Introduction by man,  directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment (including estuaries) resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources, hazards to human health, a hindrance to marine activities including fishing, impairment of quality for use of seawater and reduction of amenities."

It is estimated that a staggering 80 per cent of marine pollution originates on land. Land-based pollutants – such as agricultural run-off and nutrients from sewage outflows - are contributing to ocean ‘dead zones’ – areas that can no longer sustain life because they have low or zero oxygen. There are now some 500 of these dead zones around the world.

And among those marine pollutants, plastics are one of the biggest man-made pollutants in the marine environment. Plastic is ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Some plastics we can reuse or recycle—and many play important roles in areas like medicine and public safety—but other items, such as straws, are designed for only one-time use. More than 40 per cent of plastic is used only once before it is thrown away, where it lingers in the environment for a long, long time. It often breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, called microplastics, which can be ingested by both animals and people.

A recent investigation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) found evidence that plastic pollution is increasing exponentially compared to surrounding waters and the GPGP is now estimated to cover an area of 1.6 million square kilometers. There are also some identified marine pollutants like- persistent organic pollutants (POPs), endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), mercury and heavy metal compounds, post- sides, pharmaceuticals, oil, and their related chemicals (e.g., BPA, phthalates), personal care products and other industrial and agricultural emissions are affecting our ocean's health and ecosystem.

For a healthy and sustainable ocean, we need a healthy marine ecosystem and a healthy food web.  The SDG 14 aims to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” To achieve this, Target 14.1 requires: “By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution. “Already there are some policies and actions had been taken and to achieve SDGs 14 we also have our responsibilities in this regard.

Some actions: Current international conventions and programs to address chemicals and wastes with a new international instrument for plastics;

  • review of water quality standards, resulting in harmonized global standards for marine water;
  • biomonitoring programmes to inform such governance, for national quality coastal zones and in global oceans and seas
  • expanding and implementing extended producer responsibility programs;
  • zero waste policies;
  • pollution prevention while avoiding regrettable substitution;
  • remediation and clean-up;
  • fishing and ocean certification systems; and
  • community awareness-raising, capacity building and empowerment.

We can save our ocean. Even a single step of behavioral change can make a count. From 'Save Ocean '.org - 10 Ways to Help Our Ocean are as followings:

1.      Conserve Water: Use less water so excess runoff and wastewater will not flow into the ocean.

2.      Reduce Pollutants: Choose nontoxic chemicals and dispose of herbicides, pesticides, and cleaning products properly.

3.      Reduce Waste: Cut down on what you throw away.

4.      Shop Wisely: Choose sustainable seafood. Buy less plastic and bring a reusable bag.

5.      Reduce Vehicle Pollution: Use fuel-efficient vehicles, carpool or ride a bike.

6.      Use Less Energy: Choose energy-efficient light bulbs and don't overset your thermostat.

7.      Fish Responsibly: Follow "catch and release" practices and keep more fish alive.

8.      Practice Safe Boating: Anchor in sandy areas far from coral and seagrasses. Adhere to "no wake" zones.

9.      Respect Habitat: Healthy habitat and survival go hand in hand. Treat with care.

10.  Anytime, Anywhere Volunteer: Volunteer for cleanups at the beach and in your community. You can get involved in protecting your watershed too!

About the Author: Ms. Farjana Yeasmin Nishita is a Youth Advocate, Research Student, Climate activist and an Eco Club Bangladesh Member (The Earth Needs Love)

Editor name: Madiha Razzaq