Ocean dead zones are formed by runoff of chemical fertilizers in rivers, which are carried to the ocean, and fallout from burning fossil fuels. These factors create dead zones where marine life is incapable of surviving. The lack of oxygen created by dead zones that prevents fish and other marine life from thriving is called hypoxia.
Ocean dead zones, as kristennoelle mentioned, are set off by the runoff such as fertilizers. Just as fertilizers encourage plant growth on land, they do the same once introduced to marine ecosystems. This results in an influx of phytoplankton growth more commonly known as algal blooms. The phytoplankton produce organic matter which is then processed by bacteria that use oygen and give off carbon dioxide. The bacteria uses dissolved oxygen in the water, which is the same oxygen that a number of marine organisms also need to survive. With the excessive growth of algal blooms and the accompanying bacteria, the oxygen-level is anoxic (either very low or completely depleted of oxygen) resulting in a so-called dead zone.
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