The Effect of Pollution on Marine Life

The Effect of Pollution on Marine Life


The Effect of Pollution on Marine Life


Abstract on The Effect of Pollution on Marine Life

The effects of marine pollution on marine life are extensive, impacting on the flora, fauna and entire ecology of the marine environment. In most cases, apart from direct impact on the living resources, marine pollutants tends to adversely alter or degrade the environment to extreme conditions that are beyond the tolerance or adaptation limits of the living resources therein. The marine environment, the organisms, and the types of marine pollution and how these pollutions affect the marine life are discussed. A review of some of the control measures, methods and techniques put in place in recent years to solve these problems are also discussed. There are emphasizes on how awareness and public/private participation can lead to a sustainable marine environment. It can pave way, mitigating global warming, preserving and protecting precious marine resources.



Plate 1. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill—————————————————–11

Plate 2. Industrial waste disposed directly into the marine environment————17

Plate 3. A bird covered in oil from an oil spill——————————————27


Table 1. Types of marine pollution, causes and effects——————————–20




1.0     Introduction —————————————————————————1

1.1     What is pollution———————————————————————-2

1.2     What are pollutants——————————————————————-3


2.0     Marine pollution———————————————————————-5

2.0.1 Marine pollutants———————————————————————-8

2.1     Types of marine pollution———————————————————–8

2.1.1  Oil pollution         —————————————————————————9

2.1.2  Chemical pollution——————————————————————12

2.1.3  Eutrophication———————————————————————–13

2.1.4  Acidification————————————————————————-14

2.1.5  Industrial contaminants————————————————————-15

2.1.6  underwater Noise pollution——————————————————–18

2.2     Effects of pollution on the marine ecosystem ———————————–23

2.2.1  Effects on marine producers——————————————————-24

2.2.2  Effects on the health and survival of marine animals————————–24


3.0     Adaptation of marine life to marine pollution———————————–28

3.1     Prevention of marine pollution—————————————————-29

3.2     Control measures——————————————————————–30


4.0     Summary—————————————————————————-32

4.1     Conclusion————————————————————————–32

4.2     Recommendations—————————————————————–33


Chapter One of The Effect of Pollution on Marine Life


The importance of water for sustenance of life cannot be overemphasized. Be it for microorganisms, plants, plankton, aquatic animals, benthos and the entire marine life or for man, it’s importance remain immeasurable. It is therefore, important to note that depletion of this natural resource either through contamination, or careless use results in serious consequence.

Man’s activities sometimes, bring about undesirable changes in the physical, biological and chemical characteristics of the natural environment. This is termed pollution.  It may be harmful to human or non-human life. This may affect the soil, rivers, the atmosphere, or the seas (causing harm to marine life).

Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Many species are economically important to humans including both finfish and shellfish. Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain unexplored (Nybakken and Bertness, 2005).

The marine environment supplies many kinds of habitats that support marine life. Marine life depends in some way on the saltwater that is in the sea (Dickinson, 1963).  It is an ecosystem which includes a host of organisms ranging from tiny planktons to large whales. Marine habitats can be divided into pelagic (found near the surface or in the open water column, away from the bottom of the ocean) and demersal (near or on the bottom of the ocean) habitats. (Nybakken and Bertness, 2005).

Some marine organisms, like corals, kelp, mangroves and sea grasses are ecosystem engineers which reshape the marine environment to the point where they create further habitat for other organisms. Specific habitats include coral reefs, kelp forests, sea grass meadows, muddy, sandy, and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone (Kritzer and Sale, 2006).


Pollution is the process of making land, water, air or other parts of the environment dirty and unsafe or unsuitable to use. This can be done through the introduction of a contaminant into a natural environment, but the contaminant doesn’t need to be tangible. Things as simple as light, sound and temperature can be considered pollutants when introduced artificially into an environment (Alina, 2015).

Pollution could be in different forms, including

  • Air pollution which is the release of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere.
  • Light pollution: the impact that man- originated light has on the visibility of the night sky.
  • Noise pollution: This encompasses aircraft noise, roadway noise, industrial noise as well as high-intensity sonar (used to locate objects underwater).
  •   Thermal pollution: is a temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human influence (such as use of water as coolant in power plant).
  • Plastic pollution: involves the accumulation of plastic products in the environment.
  • Visual pollution: this could refer to the presence of overhead power lines, motorway billboards, open storage of trash or space debris.
  • Water pollution: discharge of wastewater, untreated domestic sewage, and other contaminants (intentionally or through spills) into water bodies.


Pollutants are simply defined as the substances which cause pollution. A pollutant is any substance or energy produced and released into the environment as a result of human activities that has damaging effects on living organisms. Pollutants may cause long- or short- term damage by changing the growth rate of plant or animal species.

Some pollutants are biodegradable (e.g. sewage) that is, can be rendered harmless by natural processes, and therefore will not persist in the environment in the long term if adequately dispersed or treated. Others are non-degradable (e.g. heavy metals such as lead), which means that they eventually accumulate in the environment and may be concentrated in food chains, having long term effects (Tietenberg, 2006).

Notable pollutants include the following groups;

  • Heavy metals like lead
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POP)
  • Environmental persistent pharmaceutical pollutants (EPPP)
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Environmental xenobiotics. (Tietenberg, 2006)