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Squid invasions signal changes in the Pacific Ocean

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From Chile to Alaska, the low-oxygen layer “has started to move closer to the surface,” says Louis Zeidberg, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s this scary trend.”

An oxygen-depleted layer of water exists naturally many hundreds of feet below the ocean surface. But for the past 50 years in the Pacific Ocean, this layer has become less saturated with oxygen and moved upward. At depths between 656 and 1,640 feet, areas of the north Pacific have lost between 1 and 2 percent of their oxygen each year during the past 25 years, says Frank Whitney, a scientist emeritus with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Sidney, British Columbia. And the top edge of this low-oxygen zone has advanced upward at an average rate of almost 10 feet per year.

Most sea life that has gills prefers to avoid these hypoxic waters. For these species, the ocean has effectively become 246 feet shallower in the past quarter century. This may explain why some fish species off the coast of British Columbia have moved to shallower areas, and, in some cases into Alaskan waters, says Mr. Whitney. “I would suggest that would be in response to hypoxia.”

How ocean waters lose oxygen

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