Marine Pollution

Oil and chemical spills

Oil and chemical spills from the shipping and oil and gas industry can release toxic pollutants into the environment, which can smother marine life and pose a particular threat to seabirds. We provide environmental advice in relation to oil spills – for contact details follow this link.


Noise pollution

Many marine organisms, including most mammals. use sound for a range of purposes, such as communication, searching for prey and for navigation. In the sea there are natural sources of sound like the calls of marine mammals, but there is also an increasing level of man-made noise from sources such as shipping, seismic surveys and windfarm installation.

Sound can affect marine organisms in a number of ways depending its intensity and its frequency. Exposure to man-made sounds can cause a range of adverse effects including behavioral changes and stranding and death.


All whales, dolphins and porposes are European Protected Species and we provide advice for regulators and industry on activities that could cause an offence under the Habitat Regulations as well as producing best practice guidelines to minimise the risk of harm form seismic surveys, explosive use, and pile driving activities.


Ocean acidification

The burning of fossil fuels has caused carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere to increase and resulted in global warming. The oceans act as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and around a third of CO2 produced through the burning of fossil fuels enters the oceans. Once there CO2 reduces the water’s natural alkaline pH. The shift towards more acidic conditions makes it harder for corals and many other marine organisms to grow and thrive.


Marine non-native species

The transport of ballast water taken up and released by ships in ports is a key source of marine non-native species. Once a non-native species arrives it can disrupt the balance of an ecosystem and cause environmental and socio-economic impacts.


Marine litter

Marine litter is a serious problem affecting all oceans with plastics being one of the main components of the pollution. Material from everyday household items such as plastic bags and packaging get into the marine environment where they remain as they do not biodegrade.


The fishing industry is the source of a substantial amount of marine litter in the form of discarded fishing nets. Old nets along with other forms of plastic can entangle marine animals and, if eaten, can block their digestive systems.

Toxic additives used in plastics manufacture can leach out when exposed to water. Also when plastic starts to break down into small fragments the pieces can be eaten by animals and enter then the food chain.


Our role

JNCC’s marine pollution work focuses on:


  • Providing advice to Government/industry and its agencies on the impacts of oil and chemical spills in the marine environment.
  • Providing advice to Government and industry on measures to avoid noise pollution impacts.
  • Work on the marine aspects of the Water Framework Directive.
  • Work on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive indicators for good ecology status.
  • Addressing the issue of marine non-native species.