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Friday, August 7

Feritilizer runoffs this year greatly enlarge Gulf of Mexico dead zone, threatening U.S. Gulf fishing industry

"A variety of methods have since been implemented in an effort to reduce nutrients found in the water. These include new farming tactics that use less fertilizer and planting grassy buffer strips to capture nutrients before they have a chance to get into the river."


Map shows the distribution of bottom-water dissolved oxygen from July 28 to August 3, west of the Mississippi River delta. Areas in red to deep red have very little dissolved oxygen.  (Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON; R Eugene Turner, LSU. NOAA)


'Dead Zone' in Gulf of Mexico Large Enough to Fit Connecticut, Rhode Island Combined
Aug 5 2015 05:08 PM ED
The Weather Channel

[...]

Measuring in at 6,474 miles, the annual Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" covers an area roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

This region in the water is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life, thus affecting commercial and recreational fishing.

These areas are also referred to as hypoxia areas and occur when there is nutrient runoff, largely due to the fertilizer used in fields near the water. This accelerates algae growth, which compromises the oxygen levels in the water when they decompose.

In 2002, the NOAA reported that the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone spanned 8,497 square miles. Though the size of this year's dead zone is significantly smaller, it is still three times larger than the reduction goal set by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force.

As reported in New Orleans' Times-Picayune,the goal was set in 2007 by five federal agencies, 12 states and Indian tribes located within the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river basins. A variety of methods have since been implemented in an effort to reduce nutrients found in the water. These include new farming tactics that use less fertilizer and planting grassy buffer strips to capture nutrients before they have a chance to get into the river.

In a 2014 press release from the Louisiana University Marine Consortium (LUMCON), they report that hypoxia is a recurring environmental problem in the offshore waters of Louisiana. According to Dr. Nancy Rabalais, executive director and professor at LUMCON, this can be problematic for marine life, as it hurts biodiversity and makes food hard to come by for the fish and shrimp when they return. This can become costly for the fishing industry.

[...]

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