Plastic Ocean Pollution on Ocean life in U.S Research Paper

Plastics pollution is among the greatest threats to the oceans on earth. It has been found out that plastic make up about ninety percent of all litter that float on the surface of oceans, with about forty six thousand bits of plastic within every square mile (Plastic Pollution 1).

The reason for having the large amount of plastic in our oceans is that, plastic does not undergo biodegradation, like other forms of trash; but it instead photo-degrades with light from the sun, disintegrating into more and more little pieces, but they never really disappear (Plastic Pollution 1). The pieces of plastic are consumed by the living organisms that are found in the ocean. They may also disintegrate in to plastic dust, which is microscopic.

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The plastics are as well swept by the ocean currents, and they land in spinning vortexes referred to as ocean gyres (Plastic Pollution 1). It is reported that the North Pacific Gyre located off the Californian Coast is home to the Great Pacific Garbage patch (Plastic Pollution 1). This is the biggest marine garbage site in the whole world. The floating plastic mass is two times as big as Texas and has pieces of plastic that outnumber ocean life by a ratio of 6:1 and it is not possible to completely clean up these sites (Plastic Pollution 1).

Plastics pose a great danger to the life of all ocean living organisms; be they small or big ones. More than one hundred thousand sea mammals as well as one million birds in the sea die annually and their deaths result from eating plastic materials or getting entangled in these materials (Plastic Pollution 1). It is also important to point out that it takes about seven hundred years for the plastics to completely degrade.

This implies that even if an initiative was taken to put a halt to the use of plastics, these materials will still be there for a large number of generations, continuing to pose a threat to the human as well as marine life. However, in spite of these, there is possibility of taking particular actions to effectively deal with this problem. This paper is going to present a discussion on effects of plastic ocean pollution on marine life in the U.S.

The paper is specifically going to look at how plastic ocean pollution comes about and how it affects the ocean life. The measures that are aimed at dealing with this problem are also going to be looked at. The paper will be considering some of the examples related to this problem from even other parts of the world. The conclusion section is going to present a summary of the main points in the discussion.

Ocean Plastic Pollution and its Effects on Ocean Life
The amount of the ocean debris is now constantly escalating in all the oceans on earth. The research conducted by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation presented findings which indicated that from the year 1997 up to 2007, there was an increase in the amount of the plastic debris in the by five times, where the baseline in 1997 showed plastic pieces outnumbered plankton on the ocean surface 6:1 (The Problem of marine plastic pollution1).

Elsewhere, off the coast of Japan, the amount of the floating plastic particles increased by ten times in a period of one decade, beginning from the 70s up to the 80s. This amount then started increasing ten times in every after about three years in the course of the 1990s (The Problem of marine plastic pollution1).

It is also reported that the amount of debris increased 100 fold in the Southern Ocean at the beginning of the 1990s (Copello and Quintara 1514). This rise in the amount of the at a similar period during which the global plastic fiber production had increased by four times (The Problem of marine plastic pollution1).

When the plastics enter into the ocean they injure and kill the sea animals including the fish, sea mammals and seabirds. Ocean plastic pollution has had a great impact on a minimum of two hundred and sixty seven species across the world and these include forty three percent of all of the sea mammal species, eighty six percent of the total number of species of the sea turtles and forty four percent of the total number of the species of seabirds (Laist 99).

The common impact has been death which has been resulting from entanglement, ingestion and infection among others (Laist 99). It is also reported that, in the year 2010, a California grey whale washed up dead on the shores of the Puget Sound (The Problem of marine plastic pollution p.1). Indications were given by autopsies that this animals stomach had several things which included, over twenty plastic bags, surgical gloves, golf ball and a pair of pants among other things (The Problem of marine plastic pollution 1).

The seabirds that usually obtain their food from the surface of the ocean are particularly vulnerable to swallowing the floating plastic debris. The mature seabirds engage in feeding these plastic particles to their young ones and this adversely affects the survival and growth of these chicks (Hannah 1).

Some research gave out findings which indicated that about ninety eight percent of the chicks that had been sampled during the research, had plastic in their body and the amount of the plastic that was being swallowed was ever increasing in the course of time (Auman 240).

Since insistent organic pollutants within the ocean environment get attached on the plastic debris surface, it has been established that the ocean floating plastics build up these pollutants and carry them through the sea currents (The Problem of marine plastic pollution1).

The moving and floating debris do facilitate transportation of the invasive ocean species as well (David 808). On an increasing level, studies give an indication that the ocean organisms that take in plastics that are coated with poisonous materials can have these substances get absorbed into their body systems (David 808).

The plastic debris is contributing towards having the human food chain getting polluted. For instance, in research conducted in the Pacific Gyre by researchers on a voyage in the year 2008, it was found that fish are taking in plastic particles. Out of the six hundred and seventy two fish that were caught in the course of the voyage, about thirty five percent of them had swallowed plastic particles (The Problem of marine plastic pollution 1).

Following a study that was conducted in in which one thousand and thirty three seabirds were collected, the findings indicated that individuals from 55% of the species recorded had plastic particles in their guts (Derraik 846). These researchers got evidence which showed that some of the birds from the sea chose specific colors as well as shapes of the plastics, possibly mistaking these materials for some prey items (Derraik 845).

It has also been found that the sea birds that have ingested large amounts of plastics experience a decrease in the amount of food consumed and this limits their capacity to lay down fat deposits, thus reducing fitness (Derraik 845). Other negative effects that are brought by the ingestion of the plastic materials include reduced feeding stimulus, reproductive failure, blocking of the secretion of the gastric enzyme and delayed ovulation among other effects (Derraik 845).

Moreover, among the small birds and fish, ingesting plastic debris can cause a reduction in the food uptake, and may bring about internal injuries and eventually death as result of damages made on the intestinal tract (Derraik 848). However, the level of harm will vary from one species to the other.

Dealing With Plastic Ocean Pollution
Efforts have been made to put in place international legislation aimed at promoting conservation of oceans. For instance, there was setting up of the 1972 Convention of the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Wastes and other Matter(Derraik 847).

Perhaps the most significant legislation put in place to deal with the escalating problem regarding ocean pollution is the 1978 Protocol to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Derraik 847). This legislation had recognition that the vessels present a major and manageable cause of pollution into the ocean environment (Derraik 847).

The Annex V of MARPOL is found to be the main worldwide authority that controls ocean debris ship sources. It became effective beginning from the year 1988. It restricts at sea discharge of garbage and bans at sea disposal of plastics and synthetic materials such as ropes, fishing nets, and plastic garbage bags with limited exceptions (Derraik 847).

Of greater significance, Annex V is applicable to all of the watercraft, the small leisure vessels included. It is reported that over seventy nine nations across the world have engaged in ratifying the Annex V. The signatory nations are supposed to take appropriate initiatives to ensure that they undertake its complete implementation (Derraik 848).

However, there is still widespread ignoring of legislation and estimates are made that, ships dispose of about six and a half million tones of the plastics each year (Derraik 848). For instance, taking the case in Australia, it was found out that about thirty percent of the ships did not fulfil MARPOL regulations on discarding plastics. The legislation that is put in place at the national level can actually also be very helpful.

The individual nations can turn out to be effectual through their own legislation (Derraik 848). This may involve laws that call for having degradability measures or which support recycling. In the United States of America, the 1987 Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act (Derraik 848) did not just take up Annex V, but broadened its use to the United States vessels as well.

The ocean carriers are supposed to take up these regulations that forbid discarding the plastic materials at the ocean. However, the greatest hardship when considering legislation is to essentially undertake its enforcement in the worlds oceans, which is a very large area. Therefore, it is important that the nations that are neighbours work jointly so that they can make sure that there is compliance with Annex V by all the vessels (Derraik 848).

The plastics sector in the United States of America, through the guidance provided by ACC (American Chemical Council), engages in spending large amounts of money every year in order to persuade the people who make policies as well as the people living in such places as California, that the solutions to the problem of plastic ocean pollution is found in the anti-litter crusades which attribute the liability for marine debris on individual behavior (The Problem of marine plastic pollution 1).

However, they have just committed small amounts of money to the public education but a large amount to supporting polices which promote higher levels of plastics utilization (The Problem of marine plastic pollution1).

As on one hand increasing public education with an aim of preventing littering is of great importance, on the other hand, suitable litter management fails to deal with the unsustainable utilization of the resources which are involved in the production of packaging and single use disposable goods (The Problem of marine plastic pollution 1).

Moreover, while the quantity of the disposable products as well as packaging goes on increasing, managing litter by offering public education and cleaning up of the streets as well as waterway calls for having substantial and constant financing. Ensuring there is prevention of the creation of disposable products, to the highest level possible, cuts down the expenditure on litter management. Prevention is found to be good for the environment as well as being cost-effective (The Problem of marine plastic pollution, 1).

It is also important to point out that education is a very strong tool that can be used in dealing with the problem of ocean pollution, especially when discussions about this problem is carried out in schools. The young people may not just engage in changing habits without any difficulties, but they would as well be in a position to transfer the awareness they have acquired to their family members as well as to the community at large.

In this case, they will be serving as being agents of change. Because the sources of pollution that are land-based offer greater inputs of plastics into the seas, in case a community turns out to have awareness about the problem, this can indeed bring in a great difference. Education holds great power that can not be undermined in any way and it can play a more important role towards realizing positive results than applying stringent laws, like the one applied in New York, referred to as Suffolk County Plastic Law (Derraik 848).

This law prohibited some retail food packaging but the law did not succeed in bringing down the level of the roadside as well as beach litter (Derraik 848). Financial incentives may also be required and it is pointed out that no effort to conserve biological diversity is realistic outside the economics and public policies that drive the modern world (Derraik 848).

There also exist some aspects that are more complex regarding plastic ocean pollution. Since it could be viewed as being side-effects of advancement, the nations that are going through economic development and growth will look for their growth share, exerting more pressure on the environment (Derraik 848).

There is no likelihood that nations like those ones would engage in taking any measure to bring down the level of utilizing plastics as well as their disposal in the sea water, if such a move would negatively affect any they my acquire. This is true especially when it is considered that even the developed countries themselves do not care and are even still not able to show compliance with Annex V requirements (Derraik 848).

One way of dealing with this problem effectively is by setting up and using the photodegradable as well as biodegradable plastics. For instance, the Navy of the United States of America engaged in working on a biopolymer that was very promising for the fabrication of (Derraik 848).

However, it is unlucky that the impact of the ultimate degradation products of these materials is yet to be known; there is a risk of replacing one problem with another (Derraik 848). Therefore researches were being conducted, for instance, with an intention of monitoring polymer degradation in natural waters under real-life conditionsand assess the impact of degradation products on estuarine benthos (Derraik 848).

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