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Discuss The Human Impact On Oceans

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1944 words Published: 25th Apr 2017

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Humans can have an abnormal and a massive impact on oceans all over the world. Oceans around the world are becoming more and more tarnished due to these impacts caused by humans. Evidence shows that human activities are altering ocean ecosystems beyond their natural state. These human activities are harming the ocean’s capacity to provide food, protect homes for the marine life, maintain clean water, and recover from environmental stresses like severe storms.

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A recent study has mapped the total human impact on the seas for the first time, and has revealed that the picture is far worse than imagined. Forty percent of the world’s oceans have been heavily affected by human activities, including fishing, coastal development and pollution. The most severely affected areas are in the North Sea, South and East China Seas, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, the Bering Sea, the East Coast of North America and the Western Pacific. All of this is due to human activities.


An ocean is a body of saline water that composes a large part of a planet’s hydrosphere. The word “sea” is often used interchangeably with “ocean”, but strictly speaking a sea is a body of saline water partly or fully enclosed by land. Because the ocean is accounted for being more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, it is therefore divided into different parts:

(In descending order)

Pacific Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

Indian Ocean

Antarctic Ocean

Arctic Ocean

Because the ocean is the principal component of Earth’s hydrosphere, the world ocean is essential to all known life. It also forms part of the carbon cycle, and influences climate and weather patterns. The total volume of the ocean is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometres or 310 million cubic miles with an average depth of 3,682 metres or 12,080 ft. It is also the habitat of 230,000 known species, however much of the ocean’s depths remain unexplored and it is estimated that over two million marine species may exist. This just proves how vast and important the ocean is. It is a shame that we humans do so much harm to our oceans, knowing how important and essential it is to us and other living things that require its attention.

Importance of the Ocean

Throughout history humans have been directly and indirectly influenced by the oceans. Ocean waters serve as a source of food and valuable minerals, as a huge base for commercial manners, and provide a place for both recreation and waste disposal. Gradually, people are turning to the oceans for their food supply either by direct consumption or indirectly by harvesting fish that is then processed for livestock feed. It has been estimated that as much as 10% of human protein intake comes from the oceans. Nevertheless, the food-producing potential of the oceans is only partially recognized. Other biological products of the oceans are also commercially used. For example, pearls taken from oysters are used in jewelry, and shells and coral have been widely used as a source of building material.

All living things would not be able to live on this planet without the oceans. Oceans help moderate the climate by keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The oceans provide a vast surface area for water to evaporate, thus putting moisture in the atmosphere so that precipitation may occur. The ocean is the best place where evaporation takes place. The ocean is a large body of water, which makes it so convenient for evaporation to take place. Most of the rain comes from water evaporated from the oceans. No plants or animals, including humans could survive without rain. Sadly, a lot of plants all over the world get little to no water, causing them to die. Therefore they may only be able to depend on the rain for necessary reasons. And we humans need plants for the oxygen and other gases that they give off in order for us to stay alive. So if plants die, then we as humans die along with other living things.

That’s just two of the very major things where there couldn’t even be life without oceans. There is a lot more, like where would all the fish come from to feed billions of people who depend on seafood to survive if there were no oceans? In which fish would be a huge priority for people who not only feed on fish, but also fishermen who sell fish as a job in order to survive.

Ocean water is processed to extract commercially valuable minerals such as salt, bromine, and magnesium. Although nearly 60 valuable chemical elements have been found dissolved in ocean water, most are in such dilute concentrations that the extraction of the minerals found in ocean water isn’t profitable. Ocean water is also refined to produce freshwater.

The oceans also have become more important for recreational use, as each year progresses, more people are attracted to the sports of swimming, fishing, scuba diving, boat racing, and waterskiing, just to name a few. Ocean pollution in the meantime, has escalated dramatically as those who use the oceans for recreational and commercial purposes, as well as those who live nearby, have disposed of more and more wastes there.

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Human Impacts on Oceans

Humans have had a huge impact on the ocean. In fact, evidence of humans can be found all over the oceans, even in the most remote polar areas, in the form of floating trash. Humans are the main cause of pollution of the ocean. Washington Post published that “Human activities are affecting every square mile of the world’s oceans, according to a study by a team of American, British and Canadian researchers who mapped the severity of the effects from pole to pole.” Some factors included warming ocean temperatures because of greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient runoff and fishing. The areas that are under the most stress due to human activities are the North and Norwegian seas, South and East China seas, Eastern Caribbean, North American eastern seaboard, Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Bering Sea, and the waters around Sri Lanka.

Some marine ecosystems are under severe pressure like sea mounts, mangrove swamps, sea grass and coral reefs. Almost half of all coral reefs experience medium high to very high impacts from humans. Large and small contributing factors significantly pollute both inland and coastal waters by dumping their raw sewage. Accidental oil spills or flushed tankers and offshore rigs (900,000 metric tons annually), tarnishes beaches and harms bird, fish, and plant life.

Humans dump a lot of waste in the ocean such as trash, sewage, oil, chemicals, heat, and even “noise” just to name a few. As the human population increases on the Earth, these sources of pollution increase. Small amounts of pollution do not harm the ocean ecosystems. In fact, sometimes the dumping of food waste in the ocean can increase the productivity of an area by supplying an additional food source for the marine animals. But, this is always altering the natural state and usually becomes destructive in the long run.

Here are some of the impacts on the ocean that humans cause:

Oil spills- Oil floats on the surface of the ocean, so when oil spills occur, the oil tends to end up on the shore where it negatively impacts coastal wildlife and humans. It can hurt wildlife by mashing down bird feathers, sticking to fish gills, disrupting breeding, and by poisoning animals and plants. Humans are affected when beaches are closed and seafood cannot be harvested. Once an oil spill occurs, chemicals may be used to diffuse the oil, but these chemicals may also be toxic to marine life. To clean up a spill with minimum impact to the environment, bioremediation may be used. In this process, nitrogen and phosphorous-rich fertilizers are added to the contaminated beaches to stimulate the growth of bacteria that supposedly eats away the oil.

Sewage and trash- Trash is one of the most, if not, the most widespread pollutants that are caused by humans. Beaches all over the world become littered with the trash produced by mankind. Much of which is disposed of at sea and then floats all over the world in the ocean currents. Everywhere in the world, there are trash and sewage being dumped into the ocean. Sewage acts as a fertilizer and can be responsible for toxic plankton. Another possible effect caused by sewage is detoxification. Detoxification kills marine life because there is not enough oxygen in the water to breathe. Sewage may also lead to diseases and unhealthy chemicals like heavy metals and other pollutants into coastal waters. Although the ocean is good at ridding itself of pollutants by chemical processes and dilution, as coastal populations grow, so do the human impacts on the marine environment.

Storm drain and River run-off- These impacts begin far away from the coast. This impact has a lot of pollutants that eventually finds its way to the ocean. Pollutants like a Styrofoam cup, oil and gasoline, soap from washing cars, a candy wrapper, and old smoked cigarettes are some examples of storm drain and river run-off. Fertilizers, soap, and organic wastes will increase plankton and bacteria levels in the ocean the same way sewage does. Oil and gasoline are toxic in both freshwater and saltwater. A sewer plant may become overloaded with sewage and may be unable to treat it. This may happen during rain storms if the rain water is directed into storm drains that go to the sewer plant. Because of this many cities now have storm drains that take the runoff water directly to the ocean which can be another problem if the water is contaminated

Watersheds- Watersheds can sometimes build up sewage, usually due to improper septic systems or people using the watershed as an outdoor outhouse. When it begins to rain, these watersheds are flushed into the ocean and extremely high levels of human sewage contaminate the ocean.

Thermal pollution- Thermal pollution is a byproduct of the ocean’s use as a cooling agent. The cool ocean water taken in is released at a higher temperature. Although the temperature of release is usually controlled by laws, and is not such a threat as the other forms of pollution are, one could imagine what it would be like if more and more plants began using ocean water as a coolant.


Humans are definitely a massive impact on the ocean. We as humans really benefit from the ocean, but we still are harming it in so many ways. Without the ocean, there would be dire consequences not just for humans, but for all living things that depend on it.. Humans along with other living things would not be able to live on this planet without the ocean, and I don’t think the planet would be able to carry on for long if there were no ocean.

The ocean is beginning to change along with planet Earth. The way the humans are impacting the ocean is very dangerous and is safe to nothing that lives in it. The dumping of sewage and trash and other pollutants in the ocean is tarnishing and killing the marine life and the purity of the ocean.

Earth’s global ocean is the largest confirmed surface ocean on all observable planets. This comes down to the fact that it takes up more than half of the earth’s surface; therefore it is the most important part of the earth. And we as humans need to take care of it, in terms of its state of cleanliness. Because without the ocean, everything on the earth will perish.


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