The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico
Last month I blogged about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of garbage in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of the continental United States. Today I’d like to explore another major environmental catastrophe in our oceans: dead zones.
Dead zones are areas in the ocean that lack the oxygen needed to support marine life. The Gulf of Mexico contains a dead zone that’s nearly the size of New Jersey, according to CNN.
“There’s no oxygen in the water for shrimp, crabs, fish to live,” said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.
Dead zones are expanding and popping up all over the world. There are now over 400 around the globe.
Robert J. Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said, “It is a global problem, and it has severe consequences for ecosystems. It’s getting to be a problem of such a magnitude that it is starting to affect the resources that we pull out of the sea to feed ourselves. If we screw up the energy flow within our systems, we could end up with no crabs, no shrimp, no fish. That is where these dead zones are heading unless we stop their growth.”
Human pollution – mainly agricultural pollution – is the driving force behind these dead zones.
Chemical fertilizers in the Midwest farmlands run off into the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf. These chemicals cause an algae boom; as the microscopic algae decompose, they use up oxygen – so much oxygen that slow-moving sea creatures like clams, small crabs, starfish, and snails suffocate before they can get away.
This year, due to the Midwest floods, even more pollution has streamed into the Gulf, causing the dead zone to expand.
If chemicals from corn fields in Iowa are killing marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, then you can bet that these same chemicals are seeping into your local water supply. Many chemicals remain in the water even after treatment at municipal plants. The only way to know for sure that you’re drinking clean water is to filter it yourself with a water purifier.