Another seabird kill along coast of Washington

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PostSun Nov 08, 2009 1:47 pm » by Thewindycity


Thousands of birds and other sea life have been killed off the Washington coast by an algae and sea foam mix.

Off the coast of Washington state, mysterious algae mixed with sea foam have killed more than 8,000 seabirds, puzzling scientists. A thousand miles off California, researchers have discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex roughly twice the size of Texas filled with tiny bits of plastic and other debris.

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Every summer, a dead zone of oxygen-depleted water the size of Massachusetts forms in the Gulf of Mexico; others have been found off Oregon and in Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie, and the Baltic and Black seas. Some studies indicate that North Pole seawater could turn caustic in 10 years, and that the Southern Ocean already might be saturated with carbon dioxide.

A recent bird kill off the coast of Washington came without warning, said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “There will be more surprises than that,” she said. The danger signals are everywhere, some related to climate change and greenhouse gases and others not:

Every eight months, 11 million gallons of oil run off the nation’s roads and driveways into waters that eventually reach the sea, the Pew Oceans Commission said in 2003. That’s the equivalent of an spill the size of the Exxon Valdez’s.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the oceans have absorbed 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide. They’re now absorbing about 22 million tons of carbon dioxide a day. As that happens, the oceans become more acidic, threatening the marine food chain. The acidity could eat away the shells of such animals as the pteropod, a nearly microscopic snail with a calcium carbonate covering that’s eaten by krill, salmon and whales.

More than 60 percent of the nation’s coastal rivers and bays are moderately to severely degraded by nutrient runoff from products such as fertilizer, creating algae blooms that affect the kelp beds and grasses that are nurseries for many species of fish.

Even that doesn’t tell the entire story, as competing uses for the sea multiply. Traditional ones such as fishing and shipping are competing with offshore aquaculture farms. On the energy front, it’s no longer just oil and gas drilling. There are plans for deepwater wind farms and tidal and wave power-generating projects.
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