Picture yourself at a beachside barbecue, about to enjoy some fresh clams picked
by your friends. How do you know if they are safe to eat?
Pollution in the ocean directly affects our health, especially if we eat
seafood. Shellfish are particularly sensitive to pollution. They eat tiny
organisms called plankton. Sometimes these plankton contain toxins, which make
the shellfish poisonous for humans.
Pollution, especially added nutrients (as from fertilizers and sewage),
can lead to plankton blooms, which are sometimes toxic. The government runs the
Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program, which monitors whether shellfish
harvesting areas are safe.
The health of the marine environment directly affects you in other ways,
too. For example, our beaches are sometimes closed due to unsafe levels of fecal
coliform, which can result from improper sewage treatment or leaking septic
Mercury in fish poses a health risk to people. Fish that eat fish, such
as tuna and swordfish, can have especially high levels of mercury. Mercury
pollution comes from the improper disposal of electronics, batteries and
thermometers, and the burning of coal.
Out of sight, out of mind? We might like to think so, but the intimate
connection between ocean and human health betrays this lie.
Let’s treat the ocean with respect and we will all benefit.