The global marine ecosystem is deteriorating at a worrying rate, as a direct result of oil waste. It’s the fastest source of devastation in the marine ecosystem and more harmful than the 14 billion pounds of trash and waste dumped in the ocean each year. It’s estimated that over 2600 million litres of oil waste enters the ocean annually – but the harm caused by this practice is immeasurable.
There are many causes of oil waste, such as accidental spills and leaks. In most cases, spills and leaks are the results of chronic and careless habits in the use of oil and oil products. But oil spills and leaks aren’t the main culprits for oil waste: land drainage is the source of most of the oil found in the ocean.
Have you ever tried to imagine the impact oil waste has on marine life? Learn more about how oil waste affects both marine life and those on land.
Oil Waste Impact on Marine Life
There’s no doubt that oil waste will negatively affect habitats, wildlife and weather events, as well as seasonal and climatic conditions. This could be our fate as some oils evaporate into the atmosphere or dissolve into the seawater. But these listed aftermath effects become a bigger problem in the long-term. What are the effects that we can see manifested today?
- Oil suffocates marine life to death and it breaks down the thermal insulation of the marine life that survives. A similar effect can be identified when looking at birds and animals that ingest oil when they try to clean themselves with water.
- What’s more, oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, resulting in their inability to repel water and insulate cold water – these birds and mammals die from hypothermia.
- Fish and shellfish that aren’t exposed to the oil waste immediately, eventually come into contact with the oil, which is poisonous to them. When exposed to the oil, adult fish run the chances of reduced growth, enlarged livers, experience changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion and reproduction impairment.
- According to the University of Florida, sea creatures that come into contact with oil waste, show physiological and behavioural changes, and are forced to adapt their foraging habits and times.
Commercial fishing enterprises are also affected as the population of thriving, edible marine life and ecosystems dwindle.
There’s a possibility of oil residue surfacing on our shorelines. This would be a long-term fate of oil on shore. However, it depends on a list of factors: composition and properties, the volume of oil on the shore, and sediment and rocks contacted by oil.
The above-listed effects will eventually cause changes in the entire ecosystem. Researchers believe that by 2048 many ocean regions of the world will be fishless, if drastic changes aren’t undertaken. Learn more about how you can make a change by joining a marine conservation program or try a shark cage diving tour and appreciate the beautiful and mysterious creatures of the deep blue while this opportunity is still available to you.