Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gasping for breath

Ah Raquel Vaquer-Sunyer. You are a master of the dry wit. Here is the opening statement for your latest PNAS article:
Hypoxia is a mounting problem affecting the world’s coastal waters, with severe consequences for marine life, including death and catastrophic changes.
Yes, death is indeed a severe consequence. Also those 'catastrophic changes'.

Scientists don't use these words lightly, so the science-speak of this paper translates to a fire alarm. Hypoxic zones in the ocean, aka dead zones, are on the rise at a rate of about 5% per year since the 1970s and this is not just a case of better monitoring. No, we're talking about changes in the coastal zone, waters close enough to shore for fishermen and local residents to notice when fish start jumping onto shore. Some call it a "jubilee" where you can fill your basket with fish by walking along the shore. For the fish, it's just swimming from one suffocation to another.

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