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"The Oceans are Not a Dumping Ground"

High school swimmer muses on her relationship with the sea.

By Tatiana Dorrestein

As an open-water swimmer who has grown up on the coast of California, I have always held the ocean in a special place in my heart. From its colorful aquatic life to its deep blue waters that can be seen stretching out for miles, the ocean is a beautiful and intricately complex ecosystem which needs to be cherished and preserved. Unlike most other ecosystems, the ocean is connected to a global system of rivers and other bodies of water and therefore requires everyone's help to preserve it.

Oceans, rivers and lakes make up most of our planet, and at least one source of water can be found wherever you go. From the weather around us to the food we eat, its existence shapes our planet and impacts the lives of every creature who relies on the ocean. Growing up near the ocean, I have seen firsthand how many people disregard its value. When I do beach cleanups, I find a whole range of trash, including bottles, cans, fireworks and small pieces of foam and plastic. While the large plastic is the noticeable problem, smaller pieces of trash—microplastics—represent a hidden danger. Microplastics are especially dangerous because they are so small and therefore can affect parts of our ecosystem as animals consume these small particles. It's not always obvious how much of our trash ends up in the ocean and on beaches. A simple example of how trash often unknowingly gets into the ocean is rain runoff. I personally have been told it is dangerous to swim for at least 48 hours after it rains because so much polluted runoff from cities carries trash, oil, pesticides and other harmful substances that further contaminates the water. The oceans are not a dumping ground, but a diverse and unique part of our environment. As a young swimmer, I have come to realize the health of the ocean and the preservation of its beauty is extremely important to the entire earth: something that we must ensure everyone can enjoy for years to come.

Tatiana Dorrestein, 17, attends University City High School.

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