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Sea Passion

Pollution worsens in China's sea waters

 

Marine pollution has posed a grave challenge to China over the past year, a spokesman for the State Oceanic Administration said yesterday in Beijing.

"The coastal marine ecosystem is worsening, the quality of ocean water is deteriorating and large amounts of pollutants are infiltrating from land to the sea," said Li Chunxian.

It spells a severe challenge to the country's ocean environment control. Li's remarks came after his administration released a report on the condition of China's seas and marine accidents in 2004.

A total of 169,000 square kilometres failed to reach the standard of clean water, 27,000 square kilometres up on the previous year.

The most heavily polluted areas are concentrated along the coastline, and include Bohai Bay and the mouth of the Yangtze, he said.

Lying off the coast of North China, one of the country's most populous and developed areas, the Bohai Sea has witnessed the highest increase of pollution levels.

An area of 27,000 square kilometres, accounting for 35 per cent of its waters, failed to reach clean water standards.

Discharge of land waste through ocean dumping is the major cause of ocean pollution, said Li.

The report revealed 80 per cent of sea areas near effluent outlets were heavily polluted.

Resulting pollution has caused the closure of beaches and limited the recreational and aesthetic value of the sea.

What is more, most of the seafood harvested from the ocean comes from inshore waters and the pollution has affected aquatic products.

"Pollution has undermined the multiple functions of the sea," he said.

In 2004, major pollutants carried by rivers such as the Yellow River and the Yangtze into the sea weighed 11.45 million tons.

Li said land waste pollution, together with over-exploitation of resources had worsened the eco-system.

He called for more efforts to repair the damage done and prevention measures.

China is one of the countries vulnerable to marine calamities, but 2004 had not been a significant year in terms of marine disasters.

Economic losses suffered by the coastal areas from storms, typhoons, red tides, tidal waves and oil spills reached 5.4 billion yuan (US$653 million) and claimed the lives of 140 people.

"Typhoons and storms were the major marine catastrophes for China in the past year. They caused 5.2 billion yuan (US$628) of direct economic loss and killed 49 people," said Li.

Red tides occurred 96 times last year - 19 per cent less than the previous year - and were more often found in the East China Sea and Bohai Sea. More than 20 were toxic.

Fortunately, the toxic red tides did not affect human beings and the aquatic breeding industry thanks to rapid emergency measures taken by marine authorities, said Li.

China has installed a basic marine environment and disaster observation network and an early warning system, covering both offshore areas and distant waters, with the co-operation of several departments.


World Oil Pollution

Causes, Prevention and Clean-Up

 Oil in the oceans is one of the ugliest forms of marine pollution. Just thinking about oil pollution in the oceans conjures up images of massive tanker spills, oiled seabirds and shorelines covered with gooey black oil. However, oil spills are not the major cause of oceanic oil pollution. Instead the majority of marine oil pollution comes from other sources. This page will examine the causes of marine oil pollution and methods for pollution prevention and spill cleanup.

Types of Marine Oil Pollution

Oil spills are actually just a small percent of the total world oil pollution problem. According to Ocean Planet there are 706 million gallons of oil pollution in a given year. That is a massive amount of oil! The following chart will indicate the different methods of oil pollution and their respective percentage of total pollution.

The definitions of the different forms of oil pollution are as follows. Offshore drilling pollution comes from operation discharges and drilling accidents during oceanic oil exploration. Large oil spills typically result from and oil tanker accidents such as collisions and groundings. Natural oil pollution (seeps) comes from seepage off the ocean floor and eroding sedimentary rocks. Natural oil pollution into the marine environment has occurred for thousands if not millions of years. Up in Smoke: This type of oil pollution comes from oil consumption in automobiles and industry. Typically the oil hydrocarbons find their way into the ocean through atmospheric fallout. Oil pollution from routine maintenance occurs from ship bilge cleaning and so forth. Lastly, oil pollution occurs from people dumping oils and oil products down stormdrains after oil changes, urban street runoff and so forth. The worst oil pollution comes from oil dumped into the drains and road runoff. The following images illustrate some oil spills and accidents that have occurred.

Freighter after running aground. Notice the oil leaking out into the ocean. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oil tanker Mega-Borg released 5.1 million gallons of oil as a result of an oil transfer accident. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oil tanker Amoco Cadiz. This tanker ran aground off the coast of France in 1978 spilling 68.7 million gallons of oil. Spills such as this one are very rare events. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Blowout of exploratory well Ixtox 1 in 1979. When workers were able to stop this blowout in 1980 an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the ocean. This is the second largest spill ever smaller only than the deliberate oil spills that ended the Kuwait-Iraq war of 1991. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Preventing Marine Oil Pollution

There are many different methods of prevention to stop marine oil pollution. In the case of oil exploration and oil tankers there are new procedures and equipment to ensure that less pollution occurs. Most oil tankers now are double hulled to reduce the chance of oil leakage if a tanker runs aground. Oceangoing ships filter out most of the oil from bilge maintenance to ensure that it does not reach the ocean. Used oil recycling facilities exist to ensure people do not pour oil down stormdrains and pollute millions of gallons of water. Another method is for people to spray-paint fish pictures near storm-drains so people do not put oils and other substances down the drain. This method is cheap and remarkably effective as people find other ways to properly dispose of oils. Even will all of these new methods for oil pollution reduction oil pollution still does occur.

Dangers of Oil Pollution to the Marine Environment

 

So why is oil so bad for the marine environment? Oil exposure damages animal fur and feathers so they cannot stay warm and many of these oiled animals will die by freezing to death. Other problems include accidental poisoning by ingesting oil, blindness from oil exposure, liver damage and other disabilities. If there is a large oil spill humans have to clean up the excess pollution to ensure that fewer animals will die. The following two pictures show beaches damaged by oil pollution.

In both of these pictures notice the amounts of oil pollution on the beaches. Any animals that come into contact with this oil will likely be poisoned, get oil on their fur or feathers and die from freezing or perhaps suffer permanent disabilities. Beach clean-up occurs to minimize the chance of animals either dying or becoming disabled. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cleanup of Marine Oil Pollution

So how do we humans clean up the oil pollution once it has reached the oceans? Well this is a tough question because we only are able to clean up oil spills that we know of. We have many different types of equipment and methods to assist us in cleaning up oil pollution. Biological oil agents help break down the oil so it degrades faster and does less damage to the environment. Oil booms and sorbents assist in containment and absorption of spilled oil. Skimmers skim the surface oils in an oil spill while gelling agents react with oil to form solids which can be cleaned up by suction equipment and so forth. Dispersants break oil into droplets where they will do less harm to other organisms. The last method of oil spill cleanup is elbow grease. This method involves people physically cleaning the shores with high pressure water hoses, cleaning oil animals and so forth. Physically cleaning oil on shores is time consuming and very expensive and it can also damage the shoreline further by killing and disturbing any animals left alive after the spill. The following pictures illustrate various methods by which we can clean up after oil pollution occurs in the oceans.

 In the first picture we see an aircraft applying a chemical dispersant to the oil spill to make it degrade faster. In the second picture two boats are towing a boom which collects the oil. A skimmer at the back of the boom removes the oil from the ocean. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the first picture we see a boom protecting a salmon farm. If the oil gets into the pen areas of the salmon farm the salmon will die. In the second picture workers are using hot water high pressure hoses to clean the oil off the shore. Sometimes this method kills animals but in this case there was no alternative as these beaches were home to animals such as sea otters, sea-birds and so forth. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.