The Ocean is Running Out of Oxygen!

There are areas in our global ocean devoid of life. Forty years ago there were fewer than fifty of these so-called dead zones. Today there are 405. The cause is directly related to agriculture, specifically our use of fertilizers. Dead zones can occur naturally in enclosed bodies of water or as a result of coastal upwellings and reduced winds and currents. However, it is our reliance on chemical nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorous, that has brought about the devastation we see today.

Single-celled, plant-like organisms, called phytoplankton, live in the water column and feed on the nutrients found there. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous encourages a massive reproduction of these organisms, resulting in algal blooms. These blooms can reach immense proportions, gobbling up available oxygen as they spread. When they die, they sink to the bottom, and the dead bacterial cells decompose, depleting the O2 levels even further. Fish flee for their lives but slow moving, bottom-dwelling species often die. Fishermen have reported baby octopuses climbing up crab-trap ropes in order to get air.

The proliferation of these zones can be stopped. Call a halt to large scale farming. Demand reductions in the use of fertilizers. Pledge to make the ocean a living zone, not a dead zone!

Back to Issues

Comments (6)

  • Log In to Comment

    You must log in to socialize and comment on your One Ocean experience.

    Log In Now

  • Alice San
    Posted 2014/07/08
    at 11:30 PM ET

    That is a big problem, the environment is increasingly polluted. Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

  • SCOTT123
    Posted 2010/06/15
    at 04:17 PM ET

    Sounds like evolution in action. One species (us) is growing food to support themselves and other species like fish are paying the price. Death plays a vital part in any evolutionary process. To sheild a species from competion from another will in the end be very dtrimental to the continued groth and change in the overall biomass. The species of the ocean should learn to adapt or die. Sounds like the squid climbing the ropes have the right idea.

  • WolfOz
    Posted 2010/04/23
    at 06:28 PM ET

    It is always heartening to read the comments of people who care about our beautiful planet and its creatures. Although our small individual changes in habbits can have a positive affect, the time window where that level of action can turn things around is well past. Consider the number of people in India and China who "Want the same as we have". To turn these problems around and eliminate their causes will take a level of action similar to a major, unified, military campaign. Sorry for that type of comparison but its true. Can anyone out there ponder our situation and conclude that we still have 30 or more years to "fix" things? Personally, I think the timeframe we have is far shorter than that. Regardless of how long we think we have, we are in a crisis situation. Our world leaders couldn't agree on Green House Gas emission reductions, which of itself is not a solution anyhow. It is obvious that they [our leaders] are not going to deal with this adequately or soon enough. There are many private individuals doing extraordinary work such as Dr Steven Greer and Dr Ted Loder and many others of the Orion Project. The goal of the Orion Project is simple; Release suppressed energy technologies to the world with the eventual aim (5-10 years) being to eliminate the dependance on fossil fuels and nuclear for energy production. Recently, a noted scientist who has worked within covert projects wtithin the US was contracted to the Orion project to set about the work of producing a small energy production unit suitable for powering a single home. Once that milestone is passed the possibility of a brighter future is born. Please read about the extraordinary efforts on the Orion Project Website "".

  • Annette Goebel Bradford
    Posted 2010/03/31
    at 07:48 PM ET

    I was horrified when I learned about this. Vast stretches of empty water the size of cities...unbelievable.

  • Penelope Hoesly-Lindstrom
    Posted 2010/03/23
    at 12:01 PM ET

    Thank-you Zoe for the link, I too being a grandmother now have implemented ways to help preserve our planet for my grandchildren and some day great grandchildren. My hope and prayer is that by educating our family and friends our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have the memories I had as a child.

  • Zoe Dupuis
    Posted 2010/03/21
    at 09:19 AM ET

    I am embarrassed to be a human being. I can't believe we have dead zones and known for it for years!!!! I am challenging my family and friends to do there best and more to not using products that contribute to this 'dead zones' in our oceans!

    I pledge to be as mush as a role model and educator on using products to help keep the oceans, for the many generations.


Bookmark and Share