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Ways to Protect the Environment

Sustainable Fishing
Exploring Pollution Solutions
Protecting Habitats
Understanding Global Climate Change
 Exploring Pollution Solutions

Overview | Marine Debris


Anything added to water, land, or which affects the health of living things is called pollution. Pollution can be solids, garbage thrown on the street; liquids, chemicals that leak into the soil; or gases—bad smells that come from a garbage dump. Pollution can also be in the form of unwanted energy-like light coming from a neon sign disturbing sleep, loud noises from a construction site, or excess heat being released into the environment from a power plant. Living things themselves can also be pollution. For example, bacteria that accidentally get into drinking water can pollute the water and make people sick.

Although there are natural forms of pollution, i.e. volcanoes that release dangerous gases into the air, most pollution is the result of human activities. Marine animals are frequently affected by pollution that comes from human beings.

Some pollution comes from an obvious source. The source, for example, could be an oil tanker ship that crashes into rocks and spills oil into the ocean, or a smokestack spewing thick black smoke into the air. Pollution that comes from an identifiable source is called point source pollution. It is very hard to identify the sources of most pollution. For example, fertilizers or pesticides sprayed on a farm may enter the ocean thousands of miles away because when it rains, these chemicals are carried downhill and downstream. Pollution that comes from sources that are hard to identify is called nonpoint source pollution. Most pollution comes from nonpoint sources.

Plastics are both point and nonpoint source pollution, but are another serious problem in the ocean. The reason that plastics are such a concern is that they do not break down, or biodegrade, on their own. A piece of plastic will remain floating in the ocean for thousands of years.

What can we do?

Many people do not realize that their everyday activities can pollute the ocean. However, we can make good decisions and prevent point source and nonpoint source pollution.

Here are some things that students, their teachers, and their families can do at home and school to prevent water pollution. Can you think of more?

At Home:

  • Choose products with less packaging. Less packaging means less chance of waste ending up in the wrong place.
  • Clean up after your pet. Pet waste can carry diseases that affect marine animals.
  • Dispose of waste properly. Do not litter the streets or throw waste down storm drains. Be sure to recycle plastics, paper, glass and metal products.
  • Reuse items rather than dispose of them.
  • Consider whether fertilizers and pesticides are necessary in lawns and gardens, or choose natural alternatives.
  • Do not wash the car in the driveway-detergents in waterways are harmful! Car washes usually must treat and recycle water.

At Schools:

  • Form recycling programs for paper, plastics and cans.
  • Bring awareness to students, teachers and parents. Create a newsletter to be distributed to the school and surrounding community.
  • Examine your cafeteria and determine what changes can be made to make the waste products more environmentally friendly (i.e. Do you use plastic or Styrofoam trays? Can the cafeteria reuse trays?)
  • Pick up litter.

In Our Communities:

  • Participate in neighborhood and coastal clean-ups.
  • Encourage neighbors, the town, and others to plant flowers, trees, and plants native to the area. Using native plants means less fertilizers and less watering.
  • Encourage community members to consider what they put on the ground. For example, when changing oil in the car, do not dump the oil in the street, it will simply run off into the nearest river or stream.
  • Educate people about what you have learned.

Research Links Related to Exploring Pollution Solutions:

 Species Affected by Exploring
Pollution Solutions:
  Harp Seal
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Polar Bear
Common Dolphin
Leatherback Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle
Green Sea Turtle
Black-footed Albatross
Harbor Porpoise
California Sea Lion
Northern Elephant Seal
Southern Elephant Seal
Greater Shearwater
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Harbor Seal
Hawksbill Turtle
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Tiger Shark
False Killer Whale
Short-finned Pilot Whale
North Pacific Right Whale
Humpback Whale

 Activities Related to Exploring
Pollution Solutions:
  Predators Among Us
147 KB, pdf
This lesson will focus on human beings as predators, specifically in coral reef ecosystems.

 Other Resources Related to Exploring
Pollution Solutions:
  Why "No Swimming?"
5689 KB, mpeg, audio clip
Our cities and towns affect water quality!

5896 KB, mpeg, audio clip
The effects of eutrophication are discussed in this 6 minute presentation

Killer whales provide information
365 KB, mpeg, audio clip
Killer whales can be used as a 'sentinel species' - an indicator both for ocean health and for the health of humanity.

Saving the Earth's 'last dinosaurs'
360 KB, mpeg, audio clip
Leatherback turtles are not actually dinosaurs, but they are ancient and amazing animals.

Small Changes Add Up
385 KB, mpeg, podcast
People don't realize that little problems cause big issues!

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone
10042 KB, mpeg, podcast
This 10 minute podcast discusses the causes and effects of the huge 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Space Administration

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Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA Award NA06SEC4690006)

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