According to the United Nations’ Environment Program, nearly 150 oxygen deprived “dead zones” caused by excessive nitrogen (from fertilizers, sewage, factories & cars) are now accounted for. The nitrogen triggers a proliferation of plankton which then deplete the oxygen in the water. Fish flee, but bottom dwellers like clams, lobsters & oysters can’t escape. These “dead zones” range from the Adriatic Sea to the Chesapeake Bay and measure from a square mile to 45,000 square miles in size.
Climate change is another factor in worsening water conditions. The rapid growth of “dead zones” has affected more than fishing — although in places like Norway, fishing industries have collapsed. Many species cannot escape or evolve, so they die. As microbes and other bottom dwellers die off, large species further up the food chain suffer because their food source disappears. Coral reefs, known for their biodiversity, are disappearing at record rates due to rising ocean temperatures and depleting oxygen supplies–20% of the world’s reefs have already been destroyed.
Add in record algae blooms (toxic to people and animals) and the oceans’ health is looking pretty weak.
But even scarier?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located north of Hawaii, covers an area approximately twice the size of Texas. Because all water flows to the ocean and the currents do collide, all plastic (which is not biodegradable, but rather through the sun goes through photodegradation) breaks into small pieces that turns into a watery soup. The plastic pieces outweigh zooplankton 6 to1 and float to a depth of 100 feet. It drifts — some drops to the ocean floor–and it’s affecting sea life, birds suffocate on it, turtles choke to death on it, fish mistake it to food. Plastic debris releases chemicals into the ocean and absorbs pollutants like PCBs and DDT. These pollutants magnify up the food chain and their effects on most species are still not known. As we make, use and dispose of plastic, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow.
Three-quarters of our planet is made up of ocean. Our pollution is devastating it beyond repair — some experts even hypothesize that all food in the ocean contains plastic. It probably won’t even matter anymore when a check out person asks “Paper or plastic,” because really? Plastic has now dominated our planet.