How can you help get rid of green algal slime choking our shores and smearing our beaches?
Nitrogen is the worst pollutant in the world affecting the oceans because it causes harmful algal blooms, eutrophication and ocean dead zones (hypoxia), makes marine life more vulnerable to disease, reduces biodiversity in shallow estuarine waters, degrades ocean ecosystems and contributes to global warming. Algal blooms deplete dissolved oxygen, causing marine wildlife to suffer and become more vulnerable to toxins and disease. Nitrogen in the blooms also produces nitrous oxide (N20), a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. This contributes to global warming, which further degrades oceans by increasing acidity in the water as the oceans absorb more and more carbon.
The Ocean River Institute is educating and mobilizing individuals across the country for responsible land practices for stewardship of the ocean.
In Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, the most bio-diverse estuary in North America, nitrogen runoff from lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, and outflows from Lake Okeechobee has caused massive algal blooms. These blooms have become toxic at times and contributed to dolphin die-offs in 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. Last year 80 dolphins died and over 100 manatees died. There is hope now. After four years of working in concert with locals taking action, all five Lagoon counties have passed strong lawn fertilizer ordinances. They ban the application of fertilizers during the rainy summer months, require the use of at least 50% slow release nitrogen, and that people observe setbacks from waterways. In 2014, we saw fewer dolphin deaths and fishkills, along with the return of 5,000 acres of sea grass. Click here to learn more about our work in Florida.
Off the coast of Massachusetts, the ocean waters in shallow Nantucket Sound turn brown-green every summer. The water is so murky with algae blooms that one cannot see their hand when elbow deep in water. ORI has begun work with Barnstable town officials to draft an ordinance that includes a fertilizing holiday from May 1st to June 21st, a ban on phosphorus for healthy lawns, requires at least 30% slow release nitrogen and respect for setbacks. ORI is launching an international campaign to educate, mobilize, and speak out for changing our practices on land to save the oceans.
We’re working with local groups Cape Cod on Nantucket Sound. We’re doing the research necessary to pass lawn-fertilizing ordinances with municipal decision makers that will stop nitrogen water pollution when the waters are warming and algae is hungriest for nutrients to bloom. Reducing nitrogen and phosphorus during the summer will go far to restore beaches and the ocean.