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With the global population expanding with each generation, human beings have increased the pressures placed upon the marine environment. Industrial and agricultural advancements have also increased the level of waste products created, most of which end up in the world’s oceans. Even inland communities are dumping unwanted, dangerous substances into the river systems which eventually connect with the coastal environment. Pollution has been a major aspect of conservation in both the terrestrial and the marine environment, with increased public concern and awareness especially in recent years. As far back as the early 1960’s, campaigns began to emerge fighting for the protection of the seas from pollution. In 1972, the UN discussed marine pollution as a major global issue and this led to the signing of the London Convention. This convention did not outright ban marine pollutants, but instead created a black list of substances that could no longer be dumped into the oceans. Cyanide and radioactive waste are just two examples of these blacklisted substances (Darwin, 2008). In 2006 the convention was altered in a “reverse list” manner. Now all member states, including Ireland, rather than prohibiting dumping of specific materials, ban pollutants that do not feature on this new list. This new list includes sewage sludge, organic material in organic forms, industrial fish wastes, and inert geological materials (Krause et al., 2006). Despite these measures, marine pollution is still a major problem, particularly for coastal areas, and are having knock-on effects for the communities reliant upon them. As part of our ‘Pollution’ series we will be looking at some of the key issues affecting coastal marine systems including:

  1. Plastics and Microplastics
  2. Emerging Contaminants and Toxins

Hormone Medications

–  Agricultural Run Off

–  Untreated Sewerage

  1. Resuspension of Sediments

These will cover a range of further more specific topics of importance to Ireland’s coastline. The information contained in this blog series was researched and compiled by Seán MacGabhann  as part of a broader literature review looking at West Cork’s coastline, and has been edited and contributed to by Orla-Peach Power unless otherwise stated.


Darwin, J. (2008) Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age. Rutgers University Press.

Krause, J. C., vonNordheim, H., & Bräger, S. (2006). Marine Nature Conservation in Europe 2006. Procedings of the Symposium, (May 2006), 107–116