Oil Pollution in Our Oceans
The pollution of marine environments is a concern of international proportions. Ocean pollution is caused by a variety of sources, including oil and petroleum based products. Oil pollution, either by way of oil tanker spills or as a result of other human activities, results in massive damage to marine environments and coastlines. The negative consequences are both short and long-term in nature, and will impact every individual on earth in some way or another in the near future.
An author notes that historically, oceans have been very slow to change. As a result, scientists normally measure changes in the ocean over a period of centuries. This historic trend has changed in recent times. Today, oceans are changing at an accelerated pace, alarming scientists around the globe. An author attributes the rapid increase in the change in oceans to pollution. An author predicts that individuals who live within 50 miles of coastlines will be negatively impacted by polluted waters within the very near future. This is disturbing in that approximately two-thirds of the world’s population lives within the identified danger zone.
The dangers presented by polluted oceans will eventually impact every individual on earth . Pollution in the ocean is detrimental to marine life and causes damaged coral reefs, rising water temperatures and levels, declines in fish populations, and disappearing salt-marshes and mangrove swamps. Sources of pollution in the ocean include river runoffs, the dumping of dredge waste and untreated sewage, toxins from the atmosphere, vessel-source pollution, and oil spills.
Of these types of pollution, oil spills may pose the greatest risk. To prevent oil pollution, many countries have passed laws requiring tankers to be double-hulled. New regulations between 1990 and 1999 have reduced oil spills from cargo vessels by 66 percent. An author states that while double-hulled tankers may help prevent the quantity of oil spills, it will not prevent them altogether. World dependence on oil has resulted in oil tanker traffic doubling over the last 15 years. This increased traffic greatly increases the risk for oil spills in the future.
According to an author, approximately 75 million gallons of oil or oil based products end up in the oceans off of North America each year. Of this total, approximately 47 million gallons seep through the ocean floor as part of a natural process. The other 38 percent of oil pollution is a direct result of human activities. While 10 percent of the oil that is dumped into the ocean by human activities is a result of oil spills, the other 90 percent is derived from “chronic low-level releases associated with the extraction and consumption of petroleum”.