Further Rise in Number of Marine ‘Dead Zones’
Global Programme Action Global (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources-2nd Intergovernmental Review
Beijing/Nairobi, 19 October 2006 - The number of ‘dead zones’ or low oxygenated areas in the world’s seas and oceans may now be as high as 200 according to new scientific estimates released at an international marine pollution meeting in Beijing.
De-oxygenated zones are areas where algal blooms, triggered by nutrients from sources including fertilizer run off, sewage, animal wastes and atmospheric deposition from the burning of fossil fuels, can remove oxygen from the water.
The low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds.
Experts claim that the number and size of deoxygenated areas is on the rise with the total number detected rising every decade since the 1970s. They are warning that these areas are fast becoming major threats to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for food and livelihoods.
Some dead zones are fleeting whereas others can persist for large sections of the year.
In 2004, UNEP reported in its Global Environment Outlook Year Book, an estimated 149 sites known to have experienced or be suffering ‘dead zones’.
Some of the earliest recorded dead zones were in places like Chesapeake Bay in the United States, the Baltic Sea, the Kattegat, the Black Sea and the northern Adriatic Sea. Others have been reported in Scandinavian fjords.
The most well known area of depleted oxygen is in the Gulf of Mexico. Its occurrence is directly linked to nutrients or fertilizers brought to the Gulf by the Mississippi River.
Others have been appearing off South America, China, Japan, south east Australia and New Zealand.
Research by a team led by Professor Robert Diaz at the College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia, whose work contributed to the GEO Year Book, now estimate that the number has climbed to 200 sites.
Professor Diaz told UNEP in advance of the Global Programme Action Global (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources (GPA) meeting in Beijing that the full list of new or newly-registered sites would be available in early 2007.
But he said among them were ones in the Archipelago Sea, Finland; the Fosu Lagoon, Ghana; the Pearl River Estuary and the Changjiang River, China; the Mersey Estuary *, United Kingdom; the Elefsis Bay, Aegean Sea, Greece; Paracas Bay, Peru; Mondego River, Portugal; Montevideo Bay, Uruguay and the Western Indian Shelf.
Professor Diaz appealed for more information and sightings from the Pacific Ocean where there are gaps in intelligence gathering.
The GPA’s State of the Marine Environment report launched in advance of the Beijing meeting also identified nutrients as a key issue.
Nitrogen exports to the marine environment from rivers are expected to rise globally by 14 per cent by 2030 when compared with the mid 1990s, says the report.
* UNEP has been assured by the Environment Agency in England that big improvements in water quality have been made on the Mersey and that the estuary is not in fact a 'dead zone' and therefore will not be included in an up dated list by scientific experts.
Notes to Editors
Details and documents on the Inter Governmental Review-2 of the Global Programme of Action can be accessed at http://www.gpa.unep.org/bin/php/igr/igr2/home.php
The State of the Marine Environment report can be found at http://www.gpa.unep.org/bin/php/igr/igr2/supporting.php
The GEO Year Book published in 2004, including the report and graphics on ‘Dead Zones’, is available at www.unep.org/geo/yearbook/
For More Information Please Contact in Beijing Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson on Tel: +86 10 8497 9750 or Swiss Mobile: +41 79 596 57 37, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Solomon, GPA Press Officer, on Tel: +86 10 8497 9750, Mobile: +86 136 410 51334, E-mail: email@example.com or Elizabeth@righttorights.org