The Ecologist March 1971: can the sea survive?
Forty years ago this month J. David George looked at the increasing amount of ocean pollution. But have things improved?
In March 1971 J. David George wrote a comprehensive review of all sources of pollution entering our oceans in an attempt to answer the fundamental question: Can the seas survive in the face of increasing pollution?
From pesticides to plastic bags, fertilisers to radioactive waste, by-products of the modern world regularly find their way in to the ocean. Some contaminants, such as fertilisers and pesticides, are deliberately released into the environment every day, while others, like petroleum products, are frequently released by accident. David George reviewed the nature of these pollutants, how they are entering our oceans and what impact they are having on marine life.
In the intervening forty years there has been a vast improvement in the regulation of pollution and the use of many chemicals, such as DDT, have now been banned.
However, ocean pollution continues, treated sewage is still discharged into seas throughout the UK and around the world. While, great care is taken to remove excess nutrients, little attention is paid to chemical pollutants and the last four decades have seen the emergence of new chemicals of concern, such as Bisphenol A (BPA).
Forty years ago David George wrote ‘every available method of preventing entry of oil into the sea should be used’ and yet our pursuit of crude oil is still having a huge effect on the marine environment. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year released almost five billion barrels of crude oil in to the Gulf of Mexico and had a devastating impact on the marine and coastal wildlife.
Great steps have been made to protect our seas from pollution, but we should not be complacent. Following last year’s oil spill campaigners believe making environmental destruction a criminal offence is the only way to prevent such devastating cases of pollution.
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