March 30, 1988 OZONE DEPLETION HARMS ANTARCTIC PLANKTON WASHINGTON (AP) - A veteran Antarc

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================================================================ March 30, 1988 OZONE DEPLETION HARMS ANTARCTIC PLANKTON WASHINGTON (AP) - A veteran Antarctic researcher announced findings Tuesday indicating that the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer could threaten the world's food supply. Professor Sayed El-Sayed of Texas A&M University said increased amounts of ultraviolet light, which a thinner ozone shield permits through to the Earth's surface, suppresses biological activity in microscopic marine plants in the Antarctic. El-Sayed said his findings, the first of their kind, confirm strong suspicions of biologists that ultraviolet light might mean trouble for fish, animal and other life in the southernmost part of the world. On the other hand, "I never underestimate the resilience of nature," he said. El-Sayed said it is impossible now to say whether the plankton -microscopic single-celled organisms called "the grass of the sea"- and the organisms that feed on them might adapt to increased ultraviolet radiation, and much work remains to be done. Plankton and the tiny shrimp-like creature called krill that feed on them are the primary food source for the whole web of life in the Antarctic, including fish, penguins and whales. A baleen whale may eat three tons a day. "If anything happened to the krill population, the whole ecosystem probably would collapse, and you can say goodbye to the whales and the penguins and the seals and the fish," El-Sayed told reporters at briefing arranged by the World Resources Institute, a Washington environmental research organization. Several nations are studying plans to harvest krill, a 550- million to 770-million ton reservoir of protein. A 10 percent annual harvest would almost equal the current world fish catch. The ozone shield over Antarctica already thins greatly in springtime, with the depletion reaching a record 50 percent last year. Scientists attribute the destruction of ozone to man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a 1 percent drop in ozone means a 2 percent increase in ultraviolet light and a 4.8 percent to 7.5 percent increase in the most common skin cancers. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on March 15 said a depletion of ozone at mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere since 1969 was in all likelihood the result of those chemicals. The Du Pont Co. said last week it plans to stop making them. EPA Administrator Lee M. Thomas told reporters over lunch Tuesday that the EPA and NASA would try to speed up the first scientific review under last fall's treaty by 31 nations calling for a cut in CFC production by 50 percent by 1998. Thomas said he would not support bills in the Senate, subject of a hearing Wednesday, calling for an early 95 percent cut in U.S. production. A U.S. cut beyond international agreement might take the pressure off other CFC-producing countries to act further, Thomas said, and would add little to ozone protection. ####

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