The sea is the last unexplored frontier on the earth. And while we may fantasize about stumbling onto the mythic city of Atlantis or having an epic struggle with a giant squid, 20,000 leagues under the sea – the reality may be a bit less exciting and a lot scarier than our imaginations have led us to believe.
In an attempt to unravel some of the deep oceans secrets, scientists sent robotic submarines into the Mariana Trench; at seven miles deep, it’s the deepest spot in the ocean. But instead of finding magic in the black waters of Mariana, they found the small crustaceans that inhabited the area had been exposed to a ridiculous amount of chemical pollutants – these poor guys were contaminated with 50 times more chemicals than crabs living in China’s most polluted rivers.
Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, the head researcher on the project, was surprised and told The Guardian, “We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth” What’s even more unsettling is the fact that researchers noted the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the crustaceans. These chemicals were commonly used in flame retardant products and electric insulators, but they were banned in the 1970s which means they have been floating around the oceans for almost 50 years.
Dr. Jamieson believes this new data shows that these pollutants have successfully embedded themselves in the food chain of marine ecosystems as well as in the flora on the sea floor. He is currently conducting research on the presence of microplastics in deep ocean ecosystem and its effects on the life there. While he has not published any research on the subject yet, he told The Guardian “I reckon it will be there.” So does this mean the mysteries of the deep are doomed to a dirty death?
Not by a long shot. While these recent findings are disturbing, we should not sit quietly and despair – we need to use this information as motivation to change the systems that are polluting our oceans. Humans put over 8.8 million tons of plastic into the oceans every year. These plastics join the 270,000 tons already floating on the surface of the water and the untold amounts that rest below the waves. Not only are these plastics ingested by marine life, they also leech harmful chemicals into our oceans. However, we can prevent this pollution. By simply avoiding disposable plastics (like disposable straws and plastic bags), we can greatly reduce the amount of debris that enters our oceans every year. To learn about how you can cut plastic out of your life, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign and start fighting to clean up or waterways.
While we are putting plastics into our oceans, the animal agriculture industry is putting animal waste into them too. One of the biggest threats to clean waters is the animal agriculture industry; this industry produces 130 times more excrement than humans, all of that eventually ends up in the oceans and rivers. Not to mention, the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow feed for livestock also eventually run off into waterways, leading to massive harmful algae blooms. The EPA estimates that 75 percent of all water quality issues in the U.S. are due to animal agriculture. You can stop this dirty industry from polluting our waterways by removing meat and dairy from your diet. Voting with our dollar is one the most effective tools for change that we have and if we refuse to support dirty industries, they will cease to exist. To learn more about how your diet can help to keep our oceans clean, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.
By being more mindful of our consumption choices, we can help minimize the damage being wrought on the world’s air and water resources. Considering we’ve only got one planet to call home, it’s in all our best interests to do every little bit we can.
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