Danish inland and coastal waters suffered "widespread" and "bad" oxygen depletion in the late summer and early autumn of this year, according to a report released last week by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA releases oxygen depletion statistics for August, September and October every year. Parts of the Lillebaelt and Storebaelt straights and the bay of Århus were so badly affected this year that organisms at the lower end of the food chain, such as mussels, began to die. Oxygen depletion is an ongoing seasonal problem in Denmark and last year the Mariager Fjord in Jutteland "died" completely (ENDS Daily 9 September 1997). An EPA official told ENDS Daily that initiatives to reduce nutrient discharges from municipal sewage plants and industrial sites had been largely successful, but that discharges from agriculture still posed a serious problem. The Danish Society for Nature Conservation said it was worried by the long-term implications of the situation. When an area becomes badly affected by oxygen depletion, it takes several years for fish and other creatures to return, a spokesperson said. However, the organisation remains "optimistic" as it recognises "enormous political will" for change. A government programme to recreate 16,000 hectares of water meadows, which naturally act against the process of oxygen depletion, is already underway.
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