Published on: 12/8/2020 2:38:27 AM

Marine pollution is 'the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment, including estuaries, which results or is likely to result in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources and marine life, hazards to human health, hindrance of marine activities, including fishing and other legitimate uses of the sea, impairment of quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities.


1. Run off and discharge from land (44%)

2. Airborne emissions from land (33%)

3. Shipping and accidental spills (12%)

4. Ocean Dumping (10%)

5. Offshore mining oil and gas drilling (1%)


Major Pollutants

Sources of Pollutants

Natural Sources

Anthropogenic Source

1. Hydrocarbons

Seeps of oil from ocean floors, emission of gas hydrates from fissures of ocean floors, submarine volcanoes, atmosphere, bacteria, rivers etc.

Transportation of oil tankers in the oceans, offshore oil drilling and production, oil refineries on coastal lands, aerosol etc.

2. Heavy Metals

Submarine volcanic eruptions, river discharge into the oceans, weathering of continental rocks and their transport to the coastal waters by surface runoff, sediments etc.

Industrial and municipal effluents.

3. Nutrients

River discharge, upwelling of cold seawater, atmosphere, bacterial decomposition etc.

Municipal and industrial effluents, washout of fertilizers from agricultural fields etc.

4. Synthetic Chemicals


Industries, transportation, municipal and industrial effluents, fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural fields etc.

Facts and figures on Marine Pollution from UNESCO

1. Land based sources (such as agricultural run-off, discharge of nutrients and pesticides and untreated sewage including plastics) account for approximately 80% of Marine pollution, globally

2. Agricultural practices, coastal tourism, port and harbour developments, damming of rivers, urban development and construction, mining, fisheries, aquaculture, and manufacturing among others, are all sources of marine pollution threatening coastal and marine habitats

3. Excessive nutrients from sewage outfalls and agricultural runoff have contributed to the number of low oxygen (hypoxic) areas known as dead zones, where most marine life cannot survive, resulting in the collapse of some ecosystems.

4. There are now close to 500 dead zones covering more than 245,000 KM2 globally, equivalent to the surface of United Kingdom.

5. Over 220 Million tons of plastic are produced each year.

6. Plastic can contribute to reduce our carbon footprint. They provide improved insulation, lighter packaging, are found in phones, computers, medical devices, etc. but appropriate disposal is often not addressed.

7. Seven of the EU Member states plus Norway and Switzerland recover more than 80% of their used plastics. These countries management strategy to address each waste stream with the best options. However, waste and disposal remain an issue in most of the world.

8. The UNEP estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 picces of floating plastic.

9. Once discarded, plastics are weathered and eroded into very small fragments known as micro-plastics. These together with plastic pellets are already found in most beaches around the world.

10. Plastic debris causes the deaths of More than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

11. Plastic Materials and other litter can become concentrated in certain areas called gyres as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. There are now 5 gyres in our ocean.

12. The North Pacific Gyre, known as the Great Pacific Garbage patch, occupies a relatively stationary area that is twice the size of Texas. Waste Material from across the North Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America. and Japan, are drawn together.

13. The Blue print for ocean and coastal sustainability' includes proposals to green the nutrient economy

and reduce ocean hypoxia.

10 Proposals for the ocean (Rio + 20 Ocean)

1.a Ocean Acidification

1.b Blue carbon and Habitat protection

1.c Invasive species

2.a Small island Developing States

2.b Fisheries and Aquaculture

2.c Nutrient Efficiency and Recovery

3.a High seas protection and Biodiversity

3.b Regional ocean Management

3.c UN coordination on Ocean Issues

4. Research, Monitoring and capacity building.

The changes that will be required to transition to a Blue-Green Economy will be a mix of physical, behavioural and institutional. The objectives below summarise the nature of changes that will be required. Each of the proposals presented in this section are compared against the objectives in the matrix; the purpose being to understand how broadly relevant each proposal is across the spectrum, which serves to re-emphasise the interconnected nature of the future transition.

Objective 1

Actions to reduce stressors and maintain or restore the structure and function of marine ecosystems for equitable and sustainable use of marine resources and ecosystems.

  • Implement Actions to Adapt to and Mitigate Ocean Acidification
  • Develop and Execute a Global Program aimed at Greater Protection and Restoration of Vital Ocean and Coastal Habitats, and develop a Global Blue Carbon Market as a means of Creating Direct Economic Gain through Habitat Protection
  • Strengthen the Legal Framework to Effectively Address Aquatic Invasive Species

Objective 2

Actions that support the Green Economy concept leading to alleviation of poverty and promotion of sustainable ocean sectors and livelihoods including actions to improve implementation at local levels through participatory processes.

  • Build Green Societies in Small Island Developing States: Addressing Key Vulnerabilities
  • Increase Efforts for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture in a Green Economy
  • Green the Nutrient Economy and Reduce Ocean Hypoxia through Policy, Regulatory and Economic Instruments that Promote Nutrient Efficiency and Recovery

Objective 3

Actions resulting in Policy, Legal and Institutional Reforms for effective Ocean Governance, including in the High Seas, and strengthening the institutional framework, mandate and coordination of UN bodies with marine competencies.

  • Create and Implement an Institutional and Legal Framework to Protect Habitats and Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction
  • Reform Regional Ocean Management Organisations
  • Enhance Coordination, Coherence and Effectiveness of the UN System on Oceans Issues

Objective 4

Actions supporting marine research, monitoring and evaluation, technology and capacity transfer as a mean for improving knowledge, addressing emerging issues, developing capacities in support of sustainable use of the ocean.

  • Increase Institutional and Human Capacity for Sustained Observations, Monitoring, Marine Research, and Progress evaluation of International commitments.