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  What is sea pollution?
Updated 01 November 2004, 11.43
UK coastline
Sea pollution is any rubbish that ends up in the water that affects anything that lives there.

Why does it matter?

The seas around Britain are home to more than 8,000 different species of plants and animals.

Unfortunately we sometimes treat the sea like a giant dustbin and we're not only harming the watery wildlife we're also harming ourselves.

What is polluting our sea?

  • Sewage

Sewage outlet
Sewage outlet pipe

Everything we flush down the toilet ends up in the sea. The waste we flush away is a big problem. In 2003, more than 17,000 cottonbuds were washed up on UK beaches.

  • Litter
In the last 10 years the amount of litter around the UK coastline has doubled. Some 80% of that comes from the land, rubbish that hasn't been properly dealt with.

Fishermen are often blamed for throwing broken nets and rope over the side of boats which marine life can get tangled and traped in.

  • Plastic

One of the biggest problems is plastic. The UK uses over 5m tons of plastic.

Plastic bottles
Each year the UK uses millions of tons of plastic

Each Household in England and Wales uses 300 plastic bags a year - that's seven billion in total.

In 2003 over 50% of the litter found on UK beaches was plastic.

Birds and turtles often mistake plastic for food and when their bodies can't digest it they can starve to death as they feel their stomach is full.

  • Chemicals

Substances like oil and paint are also harming sea-life. Crude oil from tanker accidents account for around 12% of petroleum hydrocarbons released into the oceans every year.

Bird being cleaned up after an oil spill
Sea birds are affected by oil spills

As seas have no barriers, pollutants like oil can spread very quickly to different waters around the world.

What are the long-term effects?

Pollution is having an impact on the biology of sea creatures. Scientists researching sea life along the UK coast have discovered female eggs inside male bodies and they think this is the effect of chemicals in the water.

What's being done?

The Marine Conservation Society and various other organisations are trying to make a difference. Last year over 2,000 volunteers collected over 250,000 pieces of rubbish from UK beaches.

A group of fishermen in Shetland have set a scheme to take any rubbish that gets caught in their catch back to shore, instead of just putting it back in the sea.

More InfoBORDER=0
PicturesCleaning up oil-covered birds
Find OutAir
QuizSeas and oceans
ClubSewage made me sick
ClubI helped clean up my beach

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Sea lion pups seen 'tree diving'
Sea birds hit by global warming

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