OverviewThis text provides a current synthesis of the range of materials that constitute marine pollutants, their prevalence in the environment, their impacts on marine ecosystems, the management responses used to mitigate them and the underlying science of how we measure their effects. We consider marine pollution within a historical and ecological context from the perspective of the problems that are successfully managed, those that are an on-going challenge and those that are emerging. The current approach is such that we now describe the seas and oceans as providing the 'ecosystem service' of treating and assimilating human wastes. The practice of ocean disposal has a long history and was thought to have minimal associated costs. However, it is now clear that although we can use the oceans for cheap waste treatment it will cost us the other benefits they provide e.g. aesthetic value, opportunities for tourism, global biodiversity and our marine food supply.