No, they aren't the subject of a future vamp flick, but they are sucking the life out of the oceans. A dead zone is an area of water so low in oxygen it cannot sustain life. Dead zones happen when, for a variety of reasons, there is a sudden upsurge in photosynthesizing phytoplankton. The phytoplankton produce organic matter that sinks to the bottom of the ocean where it is gobbled up by oxygen-loving bacteria. More organic matter means more bacteria and thus less oxygen. Fish, crabs and other sea life suffer the consequences and can die off.
One of the largest dead zones is the expansive 8,000 square mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason? Fertilizer and nitrogen rich manure from all the farms and agricultural operations whose runoff ends up in the Mississippi river and thus the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizer makes a very hospitable environment for phytoplankton.
While fertilizer usage could conceivably be limited, the dead zones of the world are becoming more common possibly because of global warming gases from fossil fuels. Even more frightening is how long these affected areas may need to recover - it isn't just decades, it may be hundreds to thousands of years before healing can occur.
A 2006 UN report entitled Livestock's Long Shadow revealed that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of all human-caused global warming causing gases, more so than transportation. In many ways, the livestock sector is facilitating dead zones - from manure runoff to global warming gas emissions, the price of producing meat, dairy and eggs continues to run high for our planet.
Do your part by eliminating meat, dairy and eggs from your diet. Learn how by reading our Going Vegan pamphlet online. Buy local and, when possible, organic. Learn more about getting your produce from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Buying produce this way may be more economical than you might think. Find a CSA near you by visiting localharvest.org. Of course, we encourage you to find a CSA that does not slaughter any animals!