Catching the Greenwave: Battling Dead Zones

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By: Eric Minter

Habitat-based water filtration experiments. It almost sounds a bit like science fiction lingo, but actually it simply means building marine habitat that filters nutrient-rich waters and helps create new and healthy habitats.

Who would have ever guessed that terms like biofouling assemblages, filter feeders and deployed habitats could play a significant role in the future of the sustainability of recreational and commercial fishing in our nation?

Mike Calinski, that’s who.

As president of Ocean Restoration Corporation Associates, Mike understands the importance of clean water and healthy habitat—so much so that he has dedicated his life’s profession and passion to supporting the health and restoration of these critically important resources.

As a student of Florida Keys Community College some 30 years ago, Mike realized something needed to be done to ensure the future of our marine resources and to revitalize marine dead zones, like those located offshore of the mouth of the Mississippi River, New York City and elsewhere, where super-nutrient-rich waters collect.

Dead zones are created when excessive nutrients feed microscopic phytoplankton that bloom and die, bloom and die, bloom and die, raining down copious amounts of organic debris and decomposing bacteria that flood and smother the bottom of unique marine ecosystems.

This cycle causes these areas to become hypoxic, meaning they contain low oxygen levels. Oceanographers began noting dead zones in the 1970s. They occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated. While the vast middle portions of the oceans, which naturally have little life, are not considered dead zones, the term is applied to the identical phenomenon in large lakes.

In March 2004, 146 dead zones where marine life could not be supported due to depleted oxygen levels were reported to exist in the world’s oceans. Some of these were small areas, but the largest dead zone covered 70,000 square kilometers. A 2008 study counted 405 dead zones worldwide.

“What if we thought about this nutrient pollution in a different way, like a farmer would?” Mike said. “What if we could convert the virtually unlimited mass of the nutrients that are killing our oceans into virtually unlimited biomass of newly created fishery resources? And what if—just what if—the ‘byproduct’ of the conversion was crystal-clear water?”

Mike thinks he has a solution to that if. His vision to combat dead zones is called LivingDocks. A product of Ocean Restoration Corporation, LivingDocks is a biofouling community similar to an artificial reef that creates a habitat that feeds on algae and converts it into biomass that can feed a plethora of crustaceans, fish and other critically important marine species.

It would be wonderful to believe that we won’t have to deal with dead zones and heavily polluted waters in the future, that the problem might find a way to simply correct itself. But that is an empty dream. As we take a more serious and realistic look at the future of our blue planet, we see the need to address such critical oversights.

For more information on LivingDocks, email Mike at orcarestore@embarqmail.com.

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