All of the waters of
the world are interconnected. This means that no matter where you
live, the streams and rivers near your home eventually flow into the
ocean. It is also true that most things that we humans put down our
drains eventually flow into such waterways and are carried
downstream. What this means is that much of our oils, bleach, lawn
chemicals, etc. eventually end up in places where marine mammals
live. And these pollutants are already taking severe tolls on some
marine mammal populations.
The animals most
effected by industrial, agricultural, and urban pollutants are
coastal creatures such as seals, harbor porpoises, and belugas.
Because these animals are at the tops of their food chains,
chemicals (such as DDT, PCBs, and heavy metals) tend to accumulate
in their bodies. Evidence of the deleterious effects of pollution
on marine mammals is seen in the ringed seal, whose populations
north of the Baltic sea are declining and reproduction is impaired
due to high PCBs in tissues. It is also seen in the Beluga whales
of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, who are washing up on shore dead with
bodies full of chemicals from manufacturing plants upstream and
common pollutants from cities nearby. Evidence is now accumulating
that indicates that California Sea Otters are being negatively
affected by tributylin, an extremely toxic ingredient in boat paint
that is leeching into the water.
These waters are contaminated and are not suitable for
swimming or other water contact activities.
San Mateo County.
This sign is,
of course, very intimidating to a potential human swimmer.
But humans can
elect to avoid a day at the beach. Just think about the
lives of seals that make these areas their homes.
Human sewage also
introduces another problem that marine mammals are faced with. A
type of algae known as Lingulodinium polyedrum (which is responsible
for red tide poisoning) has a tendency to thrive on the high urea
levels characteristic of sewage. Red tide poisoning is a serious
concern for pinnipeds as well as other marine mammals.
The serious problem
of water pollutants is one that all creatures on earth share with
marine mammals. And humans are no exception. Don't forget that
long before polluted water reaches an ocean, it potentially impacts
our human drinking water and the other water we use in our homes.
As responsible citizens of the earth, we should be careful to use
biodegradable lawn treatments and to decrease our amount of
pesticide use. We should be much more careful about what we pour
down our drains at work and home. Examples of harmful fluids
include bleach, cleaning supplies, hair dye and oil. Did you know
that more oil ran off our land into the seas during the past year
than was spilled in the biggest oil spill ever, the Exxon Valdez
spill of 1989. We should, and can, all take steps to reduce this
harmful influence in the future. In the US, auto repair shops are
required by law to accept waste oil without charge and they will
turn it over for recycling and proper disposal. The next time you
change the oil in your car, please do not look at the storm drains
along your street as a quick means to rid yourself of the waste.
Take the extra few minutes to keep your oil out of our waterways!
The issue of clean
water is one about which there is almost universal consensus. This
is easily understood since the cleanliness of our water impacts all
people, members of all political parties, and residents of all
nations. As conservationalists, our point here is that it is also
an issue that impacts virtually all of the other species on earth.
It is important for
we humans to undertake responsible stewardship of the earth. It is
our present actions that cause water pollution. It therefore falls
to each of us individually to contribute to a collective shift in
our impact on our shared water.
Please discuss this
issue in your home and in your business. Then take active steps to
reduce your own waste flow so that the water running downstream from
your home and from your community is cleaner tomorrow than it is