Marine Pollution

Pollution from a variety of sources is choking our ocean. An estimated 80 percent of marine pollution originates on land.  Growing populations in coastal regions place increasing pollution pressure on coastal and marine ecosystems.  

Nutrient pollution comes from diverse sources, including agricultural runoff and sewage and wastewater discharges.  It overloads marine environments with high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients, which can produce large algal blooms.  The decomposition of these algae after they die consumes oxygen.  This creates hypoxic, or oxygen depleted, “dead zones” where fish and other marine life cannot thrive.  An estimated 500 dead zones now exist in the world and many more areas suffer adverse effects of high nutrient pollution.

Marine debris – trash and other solid material that enters the ocean – threatens wildlife and marine habitats, presents health and safety concerns for humans, and imposes costs to society.  Plastic waste, including packaging, consistently makes up a significant proportion of all marine debris.  It does not biodegrade and is consumed by marine life. Preventing trash from entering the ocean is difficult due to the many sources, including poor trash management by communities and waste facilities, littering, and municipal storm sewers carrying trash in rainwater runoff.  Effective prevention strategies will require changes in the behavior of businesses, governments, and individuals.

The Our Ocean conference will highlight best practices and innovative efforts around the world to address these problems, in particular ways to stop pollution from entering the marine environment in the first place.  For marine debris, these include improving waste management and recycling, as well as reducing packaging and finding new biodegradable and recyclable materials.  For nutrient pollution these include more efficient use of fertilizers, improved wastewater management, and techniques to minimize nutrient run-off.

Updated list of commitments made at the 2016 Our Ocean conference.