Tag Archives: dead zone

Dead zones grow in Gulf and Northwest

Scientists recently surveyed the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico around Louisiana and Texas and they discovered a larger-than-average area of oxygen-depleted water – a “dead zone” where nothing can live. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have announced their recent findings. The dead zone has grown to 4 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, which are now unusable for fish and bottom-dwelling species.

But the Gulf isn’t the only coastal region experiencing a dead zone this summer. This was a record year for the dead zone in the waters just offshore from the Oregon coast as well. In Oregon, the global climate crisis is making the problem worse because the ocean is warming, and warmer waters hold less oxygen than cold waters, encouraging the growth of dead zones. In addition, as more carbon is absorbed into the oceans, the waters become more acidic – in turn making it harder for creatures like shellfish and crabs to grow their shells. All this amounts to “a double whammy” for the Oregon coastline. The result is another deadzone almost 5,000 square miles in size!

The meat industry is being blamed for both these dead zones. Animals wastes make their way to the coast through runoff into our rivers and streams. The pollutants come both directly from animals as manure, and also from the crop farms that produce the vast amounts of feed necessary to feed the many millions of animals raised for meat – 70% of all the crops raised in the United States go to feed farm animals. Included in this runoff are not only plant matter and eroded soil, but also the fertilizers used to grow the crops.

So let’s put it all together. The runoff from animal wastes, and the fertilizers used to grow their feed, are sucking up the oxygen. Global warming, whose prime driver is raising meat, makes it harder for the warmed water to hold the oxygen, and the carbon we’re pumping into the oceans is making them more acidic, resulting in a further loss of sea life. The result of all this is giant dead zones.

However, if we all followed a plant-based diet, we could be subtracting all these factors rather than adding them, and a healthy thriving aquatic ecosystem could result.

Meat industry causes “dead zone”

Polluted lakeThe meat industry is being blamed for largest ever ‘dead zone’, the size of New Jersey, in the Gulf of Mexico. A new report shows that pollution from feed suppliers and companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die. The meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming, soil erosion and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what is expected to be the worst “dead zone” on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s what’s happening. Pollutants flowing into waterways from agriculture and wastewater accumulate, where they stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which decomposes and takes up all the oxygen in the water. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die. When this happens the region of water is known as a dead zone.

The pollutants come not only from manure (Tyson alone generated 55 million tons of manure last year), but also from the runoff from farms that produce the vast amounts of feed necessary to feed the many millions of animals raised for meat. Included in this runoff are not only plant matter and eroded soil, but also the fertilizers used to grow them. In fact, 70% of all the crops raised in the United States goes to feed farm animals.

These pollutants make their way into rivers, lakes and streams and eventually into the Gulf, where they accumulate and ultimately kill off the marine life. But dead zones can be brought back to life. With the adoption of a vegetarian diet the pollution will be dramatically reduced, and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone as well as other dead zones around the world can once again become teeming with life.

The report was issued by Mighty, an environmental group headed by former Congressman Henry Waxman.