If you enjoy breathing as much as I do, this story should be cause for concern.
Toxins spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the swollen Mississippi are choking off the water’s oxygen at a record pace this spring, leaving a larger than ever oceanic “dead zone” of lifeless water.
The toxins — primarily agricultural chemicals such as nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides, as well as automobile exhaust and sewage runoff – are killing tiny zoo- and phytoplankton (the little critters who supply about 70% of the earth’s oxygen), and driving away larger sea life.
Flooding could cause further injury to fisheries in the northern Gulf of Mexico, already reeling from last year’s oil spill, Rabalais said. Dead zones alter the habitat for crab, shrimp, fish and lobster, often forcing them to shallow areas. This includes catchable seafood, like shrimp and snapper, which are vital to the area’s fisheries.
Dead zones are not new to our world’s oceans and river basins, nor are they limited to the Gulf. NASA tracks dead zones in Chesapeake Bay, the Pacific Northwestern coast, the Baltic Sea (which has recently been dubbed “The Suffocating Sea”) and the Yangtzee River — just to name a few of the over 150 known areas of apoxia in the earth’s waters. In fact, dead zone occurences have doubled in the last decade as the earth’s population and the disposal of toxic wastes rise.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (NASA public domain)