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Ocean Pollution and Climate Change

Addressing Ocean Pollution and Climate Change

Oceana campaigns to protect ocean ecosystems by advocating for policies that reduce pollution and climate change.

The Campaign

Pollution and contaminants enter the oceans through a number of outlets: offshore oil and gas drilling, coal-burning power plants, aquaculture, mercury-based chlorine plants, plastics, marine debris and more. Once these toxins enter the environment, they can cause long-lasting damage to marine ecosystems and adversely impact wildlife and fisheries.

Pollution — from oil spills, coal plants and other sources — can negatively impact the health of the oceans and both the creatures and people who depend on them.  Oceana is working to stop ocean pollution from all of these sources in order to protect marine biodiversity and abundance.

The vast oceans act as a tremendous carbon sink, absorbing about one-third of carbon dioxide emissions. Climate-changing gases from offshore oil and other fossil fuels are changing ocean chemistry, saturating the oceans with carbon dioxide and making them increasingly acidic.

Acidification is already leading to the degradation of coral reef habitats and negatively impacting some commercially important fisheries, like shellfish. Oceana advocates for clean energy, like windpower  — and particularly for energy that comes from the ocean — in order to reduce climate-changing gases and the impact of ocean acidification and climate change on our seas.

The ever-increasing amount of livestock, raised to supply the skyrocketing demand for meat, is also contributing to climate change. Cow and other livestock release vast amounts of methane gas, which is a far more potent climate changing gas than carbon dioxide. Plus, cows, pigs and other animals raised for meat generate huge amounts of waste and require a great deal of freshwater and land. Oceana is advocating for fisheries reform around the world that would reduce the dependence on livestock for animal protein by making oceans and seafood more plentiful and abundant.

Offshore drilling increases the risk of toxic exposure from oil contamination to wildlife and coastal communities, and contributes to economic losses and climate change. Offshore drilling operations are a source of insidious leaks, and catastrophic spills and blowouts.  Oceana is opposed to offshore oil drilling in unique and fragile ecosystems, such as the Arctic and Belize, where even a small oil spill could have significant consequences. 

Our oceans also face multiple threats to their health due to pollution from aquaculture, coal-burning, land-based runoff, plastics, shipping pollution and mine tailings. Industrial plants continue to release toxic chemicals directly into the oceans. And, power plants continue to be sited adjacent to the oceans (and even directly next to marine reserves) where they emit air pollution, as well as pump super-heated water and anti-fouling chemicals directly into the seas.  Oceana is campaigning to stop the siting of industrial and power plants in Chile and elsewhere. 

Keeping the Atlantic Safe from Seismic Airgun Blasting

Oil Spill in Chile's Quintero Bay Affects Fisheries

Chile's North Coast Protected from Coal-Fired Power Plants

Oil Drilling Stopped in Belize's Barrier Reef System

What Oceana Does

Stopping the Expansion of Offshore Drilling

Marine life and ocean ecosystems are threatened by renewed interest in oil drilling in the ocean. Expanded offshore drilling increases the risk of oil contamination to wildlife and communities, and contributes to economic losses and climate change. Oceana is working to prevent the expansion of offshore oil drilling in important and vulnerable marine areas such as the Arctic — a unique and fragile ecosystem where even a small oil spill could be impossible to clean up — and in Belize, home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

Cleaning up Aquaculture

Aquaculture facilities can be significant sources of pollution, including excess feed, fish waste and dead fish. This waste can spur excess algae growth, clouding coastal waters and altering seafloor ecosystems. The high densities of fish in net pens used by fish farming facilities lead to disease outbreaks and a higher prevalence of disease overall. Captive fish often escape into the environment, where they can spread disease and compete with, or even prey on, wild fish populations. As a result of the disease outbreaks, many of the farmed fish are treated with antibiotics, reducing effectiveness of the same drugs for human diseases. Oceana works in Chile to promote responsible aquaculture practices.

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