California: Threat Of ‘Dead Zone’ Developing Off Sonoma Coast

Threat of ‘dead zone’ developing off Sonoma Coast

Climate change is the likely cause of unprecedented mass of oxygen-poor water off the Sonoma Coast, a phenomenon that could harm the region’s prized Dungeness crab and other marine life.

Scientists at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, who were the first to detect the hypoxic (low-oxygen) waters, aren’t calling it a “dead zone” yet, despite the similarity to a lethal condition along the Oregon coast for the past 12 years and forecasts that it will occur worldwide with global warming.

“There’s nothing dead,” said John Largier, an oceanographer at the UC Davis research facility on Bodega Head. But equipment on a bright yellow buoy anchored about a mile offshore has recorded dissolved oxygen levels low enough to cause “significant distress” for some marine organisms, he said.

Oxygen-poor water is common in deep water of the open ocean, but until this year had never been documented over the continental shelf close to the Sonoma coast, he said.

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