Marine “dead zones” on the rise around the world

There are now at least 200 oxygen-starved “dead zones” in the world’s seas and oceans, a rise of more than a third over the past two years, the United Nations Environment Program announced yesterday. The algae blooms that suck up oxygen and cause dead zones — killing off or driving out fish, oysters, sea grass, and other marine flora and fauna — are triggered by phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, sewage, animal waste, and fossil-fuel burning. Dead zones currently lurk off the coasts of the U.S., Scandinavia, South America, Ghana, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, and Britain. “There are numerous compelling reasons for combating pollution to the marine environment,” says UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “These range from public health concerns to the economic damage such pollution can cause to tourism and fisheries.” Unfortunately, the dead-zone problem is only getting worse; nitrogen pollution of waterways that drain into seas and oceans is expected to rise 14 percent from mid-1990s levels by 2030.