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Scotland-sized 'dead zone' discovered in Gulf of Oman

The dead zone found is larger than Scotland [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2018

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Environmentalists are concerned about a huge 'dead zone' discovered in Arabian waters, after a months' long search by underwater robots.


A country-sized "dead zone" has been discovered in the Gulf of Oman with almost no life found in a stretch of water "larger than Scotland".

Underwater robots found the dead zone after a months' long search, off the eastern Arabian Peninsula.

It brings concerns that one of the world's busiest shipping lanes - which is also a key fishing area - is facing an environmental catastrophe.

Dr Bastien Queste from UEA's School of Environmental Science teamed up with Oman's Sultan Qaboos University to study the dead zone.

His findings painted a bleak picture for marine life in the Gulf of Oman with almost no oxygen discovered in the waters between the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea.

"The Arabian Sea is the largest and thickest dead zone in the world," Dr Bastien Queste said in a statement.

"They are a disaster waiting to happen - made worse by climate change, as warmer waters hold less oxygen, and by fertiliser and sewage running off the land into the seas."

No-one was aware of just how bad the situation was as piracy and conflicts in the area made it too dangerous for scientists to collect data safely, he said.

"We barely have any data collected for almost half a century because of how difficult it is to send ships there," he added.

"Our research shows that the situation is actually worse than feared - and that the area of dead zone is vast and growing. The ocean is suffocating."

Dead zones are devoid of oxygen, making it near impossible for any life to survive in the waters.

Waters devoid of oxygen also produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, Queste said.

"Of course all fish, marine plants and other animals need oxygen, so they can't survive there. It's a real environmental problem, with dire consequences for humans too who rely on the oceans for food and employment," he added.

"Management of the fisheries and ecosystems of the western Indian Ocean over coming decades will depend on better understanding and forecasting of oxygen levels in key areas such as the Gulf of Oman."

Oman is currently attempting to diversify its economy with fishing one industry it is attempting to expand through a series of new fishing ports and loans.

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