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The Great Lakes are in trouble. In late December 2016, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) released a study revealing that an estimated 10,000 metric tons of plastic enter the Great Lakes each year. There have been multiple studies that show devastating effects that plastic has on our waterways, but it turns out that our trash isn’t the only big problem facing the Great Lakes. Recently, a report conducted by the International Joint Commission (IJC), which is responsible for overseeing disputes regarding lakes and rivers that run along the United States-Canada border, revealed that the lakes are being plagued by massive algae growth and dead zones.

Dead zones are places in bodies of water where hypoxia, or lowered levels of oxygen, is present, and it is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorous in the water. These excess nutrients encourage abnormal algae growth. While the size of dead zones can be affected by water levels and temperatures, there is no beating around the bush with this one; the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, are suffering due to run-off from animal agriculture.

According to the study by the IJC, “A major source of nutrient inputs to the western Lake Erie basin is concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These are livestock confinement facilities that house large quantities of animals, generating significant quantities of animal waste.”

While Ohio has made efforts to curb the amount of animal waste running into the Great Lakes, the IJC‘s report concludes that “a greater sense of urgency and inclusion of regulatory protections in domestic action plans are needed.” In short, we are doing too little to protect the Great Lakes from the damages of animal agriculture. The algae blooms in the Great Lakes are having a devastating effect on the ecosystem. Without sufficient oxygen, no marine life can survive – major cases of fish kills have been reported in the Great Lakes as a result of excess run off.

While more legislative efforts to protect the Great Lakes is ideal, we cannot wait for the government to take action. If this report by the IJC concerns you, then you can take matters into your own hand. Animal agriculture is the culprit behind the massive growth of invasive algae in the Great Lakes; by reducing your consumption of meat and dairy, you are taking a stand for the health of the planet. One Green Planet believes that our global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically reduce your impact on the world’s waterways. To learn more about how you can start, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

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Image source: aquapix/Shutterstock