Ocean Pollution

Cemetery after the BP Deepwater Horizon Blowout, Louisiana

In addition to carbon dioxide, mercury, and marine debris, which are types of pollution, other man made pollutants constantly enter the oceans from a range of sources.  These include oil, fertilizers, toxic chemicals, and sewage.


Oil spills may be the most infamous pollutant because popular media often vividly shows dramatic damage.  The agonizing images of seabirds such as Pelicans covered in crude oil are hard to forget.  Meanwhile, the extensive  damage to marine environments from oil spills often lasts for decades.

The Safina Center’s founding president, Carl Safina, chronicles the 2010 British Petroleum oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in his book, A Sea in Flames, and in various interviews and other writings.  Check out a selection of links to this content below.

Though less dramatic but still damaging, a large portion of oil pollution comes from waste and runoff from towns and cities.  Every drop of oil spilled has a chance of finding its way to the ocean.

Pesticides, solvents, paints, and industrial chemicals also frequently reach the ocean.  Many of these hazardous materials harm sea life and some return to land through contaminated seafood that people eat, which can cause health problems.

Dead zones are the result of runoff into the sea from land-based activities, and they can harm crabs, shellfish, and other sea life…Read More

3 things you can do right now to prevent ocean pollution:

1. Make the shift to clean, renewable energy when and wherever possible.
2. Remember all drains eventually lead to the oceans.  Be very careful what you pour down any drain.
3. Stay informed, know the issues.

Other great ways you can make a difference.


Carl Safina on the Gulf of Mexico disaster and other oil spills:

Blowout, Blog Post, Carl Safina
Oil Catastrophe Wasn’t Just an Accident, Blog Post, Carl Safina
Toxic Brew, Blog Post, Carl Safina
Deepwater Horizon, One Year Later: A Conversation with Carl Safina, Atlantic MonthlyGulf Blowout Aftermath: Two Years and Worsening, Blog Post, Carl Safina
Oil and Herring Don’t Mix, Blog Post, Carl Safina



Gulf Awash with 27,000 Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells – Huff Post
A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Blowout – by Carl Safina
Mission Blue Wake Up Call – Carl’s Blog
Water Pollution – Thank You Ocean

10 Ways Oil Spills Affect Marine Life – Oceana

Effects of Oil on Wildlife – Australian Government

Cosco Busan Spill – California Department of Fish and Game

Urban Runoff – Wikipedia

Exxon Valdez Spill – New York Times

Resources on Oil Spills, Response, and Restoration: A Selected Bibliography, NOAA