The Safina Center

Cemetery after the BP Deepwater Horizon Blowout, LouisianaCemetery after the BP Deepwater Horizon Blowout, LouisianaPhoto taken by: Carl Safina

Ocean Pollution

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 Monthly
Gulf 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


Related Videos:

Gulf Awash in 27,000 Abandoned Oil Wells, AP

Potential environmental time bombs in the form of 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells are lurking in the hard rock beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Oil Spill Effects On Wildlife, NASA

What are and will be the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the wildlife in the area?

Carl Flies Over Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Disaster

James Fox flew over the BP Gulf oil disaster with Marine Biologist Dr. Carl Safina who’s president of Blue Ocean Institute on day 52 of the BP Oil spill.


Runoff 101, Natural Resources Defense Council

Urban runoff is a main source of pollution at beaches across the United States.