Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, March 29, 2004

Rapid Growth of "Dead Zones" in Oceans Threatens Planet

The spread of oxygen-starved "dead zones" in the oceans, a graveyard for fish and plant life, is emerging as a threat to the health of the planet, experts say. For hundreds of millions of people who depend on seas and oceans for their livelihoods, and for many more who rely on a diet of fish and seafood to survive, the problem is acute. Some of the oxygen-deprived zones are relatively small, less than one square kilometer (0.4 square miles) in size. Others are vast, measuring more than 70,000 square kilometers. Pollution, particularly the overuse of nitrogen in fertilizers, is responsible for the spread of dead zones, environment ministers and experts from more than 100 countries were told. The number of known oxygen-starved areas has doubled since 1990 to nearly 150, according to the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), holding is annual conference in South Korea.