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Workers Race to Clean Up Oil Spill on California Coast. Cleanup crews wearing white coveralls and masks shoveled -soaked mud into plastic bags on Thursday near Santa Barbara, Calif., where a ruptured pipeline fouled beaches just days before holiday weekend crowds were expected to descend on them, a blow to the tourism-dependent city.

Workers Race to Clean Up Oil Spill on California Coast

An Ocean of Plastic. Ocean currents have been carrying floating debris into all five of the world’s major oceanic gyres for decades.

An Ocean of Plastic

The rotating currents of these so-called “garbage patches” create vortexes of trash, much of it plastic. However, exactly how much plastic is making its way into the world’s oceans and from where it originates has been a mystery — until now. Plastic Pollution in Oceans. Environmental Issues > Oceans Main Page > All Oceans Documents The Basics We're treating the oceans like a trash bin: around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, and most of that is plastic.

Plastic Pollution in Oceans

Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health. Read more » What it Means to You. Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Sea. Garbage patches in the ocean aren't piled-up islands of trash and debris, as is the common perception.

Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Sea

But that doesn't mean the tiny, swirling plastic bits are nothing to worry about. The currents of the North Pacific gyre collect trash—mostly bits of microscopic plastic—into what are known as "garbage patches. " Credit: NOAA Marine Debris Program In the Pacific Ocean, four ocean currents merge to form the North Pacific gyre, also known as the North Pacific Subtropical High, which spans the western US to Japan, and Hawaii to California. Ocean Pollution and Marine Mammals – < Ocean Issues By Bob Bohle The impact of humans has now reached every square mile of Earth’s oceans, and implications are ominous for ocean creatures and humans alike.

Ocean Pollution and Marine Mammals –

In a study released in the February 2008 journal Science, researchers found that human activity -- from over-fishing to greenhouse gases and global warming to the introduction of toxins into the environment – has affected every square mile of ocean on the planet and strongly impacted roughly 40 percent of marine ecosystems.

What the study didn’t cover directly may be even more disturbing: marine mammals are suffering dramatic rises in devastating illnesses, such as nervous and digestive system problems, liver disease, contaminant-induced immunosuppression, endocrine system damage, reproductive malformations, and growth and development issues. Worse yet is the alarming growth in cancer cases. The Toxic Top Ten: bottlenose dolphin, orca. A Deadly Toll. Gulf Disaster. The BP disaster was by far the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

Gulf Disaster

It spewed as much oil in just days as the entire Exxon Valdez spill and eclipsed the notorious Ixtoc blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, which leaked 138 million gallons of crude. Astoundingly, BP flatly refused to help scientists gather the information necessary to determine just how much oil was really spewing into the Gulf ecosystem. But government estimates of up to 2.6 million gallons per day put the total as high as 205.8 million. Surface oil slicks and sheens believed to be associated with the BP spill affected thousands of square miles, with oil and tar reaching the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. National Geographic.

The oceans are so vast and deep that until fairly recently, it was widely assumed that no matter how much trash and chemicals humans dumped into them, the effects would be negligible.

National Geographic

Proponents of dumping in the oceans even had a catchphrase: "The solution to pollution is dilution. " Today, we need look no further than the New Jersey-size dead zone that forms each summer in the Mississippi River Delta, or the thousand-mile-wide swath of decomposing plastic in the northern Pacific Ocean to see that this "dilution" policy has helped place a once flourishing ocean ecosystem on the brink of collapse. Pollution's Many Forms There is evidence that the oceans have suffered at the hands of mankind for millennia, as far back as Roman times.

But recent studies show that degradation, particularly of shoreline areas, has accelerated dramatically in the past three centuries as industrial discharge and runoff from farms and coastal cities has increased. Noise Pollution Pollution is not always physical. OR&R's Marine Debris Program. The name “Pacific Garbage Patch” has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter —akin to a literal island of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs.

OR&R's Marine Debris Program

While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is actually small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye. Ocean Plastics Pollution. Plastic never goes away.

Ocean Plastics Pollution

How Does the BP Oil Spill Impact Wildlife and Habitat? Scientists are still assessing the effects of the estimated 170 million gallons of oil that flooded into the Gulf after the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

How Does the BP Oil Spill Impact Wildlife and Habitat?

More than 8,000 birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals were found injured or dead in the six months after the spill. Learn How Oil Impacts: