Says Number Of Ocean
"Dead Zones" Rising Fast
By Daniel Wallis
21 October, 2006
The number of "dead zones"
in the world's oceans may have increased by a third in just two years,
threatening fish stocks and the people who depend on them, the U.N.
Environment Program said on Thursday.
Fertilizers, sewage, fossil fuel burning and other pollutants have led
to a doubling in the number of oxygen-deficient coastal areas every
decade since the 1960s.
Now experts estimate there
are 200 so-called ocean dead zones, compared with 150 two years ago.
"Some successes are
being scored but in other areas -- like sewage, nutrients from fertilizer
run off, animal wastes and atmospheric pollution; sediment mobilization
and marine litter -- the problems are intensifying," UNEP Executive
Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.
The first "dead zones"
-- where pollution-fed algae remove oxygen from the water -- were found
in northern latitudes like the Chesapeake Bay on the U.S. East Coast
and the Scandinavian fjords.
Today, the best known is
in the Gulf of Mexico, where fertilizers and other algae-multiplying
nutrients are dumped by the Mississippi River.
Others have been appearing
off South America, Ghana, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal
The UNEP said in a statement
that experts warn "these areas are fast becoming major threats
to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for
food and livelihoods."
The full list is expected
to be published early next year, but the preliminary findings were released
on Thursday at an international marine pollution conference in Beijing,
China, which gathered delegates from more than 100 nations.
The meeting also heard some
good news from scientists studying the recovery rates of coral reefs
damaged by bleaching in the late 1990s by high sea temperatures.
Coral reefs get bleached
when warm water forces out tiny algae that live in the coral, providing
nutrients and giving reefs their vivid colors. Without the algae, corals
whiten and eventually die.
"The new studies indicate
healthy ecosystems exposed to minimal contamination are likely to recover
and survive better than those stressed by pollution, dredging and other
human-made impacts," Steiner said.
UNEP said the overall findings
were given even more urgency by new modeling that shows up to 90 percent
of the world's tropical coasts may be developed by 2030.
"Climate change, and
the need to build resilience into habitats and ecosystems so they can
cope with the anticipated increase in temperatures likely to come, now
represents a further urgent reason to act," Steiner added
Thursday's meeting came just
over two weeks before the start of global warming talks under the U.N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change due to begin in Nairobi, Kenya
on November 6.
© Copyright 2006 Reuters
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