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Now, hypoxic dead zones are appearing across the globe, and many are growing in size each year. For coastal communities that rely on fishing for income and trade, hypoxic zones can be devastating. Scientists are still researching the long-term impacts of dead zones, but there is one thing they know for sure: without swift action to reduce global temperature rise, these zones will continue to grow, and many may become permanent.
Highway to the Dead Zone: “It’s one of the horsemen of climate change in the sea,” Oregon State University researcher Francis Chan told The Washington Post. “And that’s because the water that we get is lower in dissolved oxygen than it used to be.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks hypoxic zones and notes that their onset comes earlier, and they move closer to fisheries and coasts each year. Experts fear that by late August, usually the peak of the hypoxic season, the 7,700-square-mile area will have grown much more significant, potentially breaking the record of 8,776 square miles set by the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone 2017.
“We’re still trying to figure out how large this is going to be,” said Richard Feely, senior scientist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of NOAA. “Right now, we’re anticipating there could be impacts on crabs and fish that live at the bottom.”
Chan says the key to monitoring and mitigating hypoxic zones is partnering with local communities. He’s joined forces with crab fishers to place sensors in crabbing gear that can collect data on oxygen levels and notify fishers of danger to their catch. “The partnership between commercial fishermen and these researchers is the easy solution to getting that data,” said second-generation Oregon fisherman Aaron Ashdown. “We’re out there, if not every day, so we get to see things that most other people don’t get to see.” This year’s 12-million-pound crab haul has been below the usual average of 17 million pounds.
Experts hope that climate mitigation will protect the long-term health of fisheries and coastal communities. “It’s concerning because if we’re starting to see it earlier, then we’re starting to see it impact more of the catch, more of the landings for that particular season,” said Tim Novotny, the spokesman for the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
“And if that’s a trend that is going to continue, we need to know about it. The more data we can get from research, the better we are to be prepared and dealing with these sorts of events.”
UNESCO has launched a new program to collect, analyze, and monitor environmental DNA (AKA eDNA) to better understand biodiversity at its marine World Heritage sites. Scientists will collect genetic material from fish cells, mucus, and waste across multiple locations along with eDNA from soil, water, and air. The two-year project will help experts assess […]
It’s about time we had a conversation about the birds and the bees…or in this case, the otters and the seagrass. A new study found that the ecological relationship between sea otters and the seagrass fields where they make their home is spurring the rapid reproduction of the plants. Otters dig up about 5% of […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating rapidly, and experts say that a hull breach could have far-reaching environmental impacts and threaten millions of people’s access to food and water supplies. The FSO SAFER tanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil — more than four […]
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