Near-Record ‘Dead Zone’ Forecast Off U.S. Gulf Coast, Threatening Fish

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters) – A near record-sized “dead zone” of oxygen-starved water could form in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, threatening its huge stocks of marine life, researchers said.

The area could spread over 8,700 square miles (22,500 square km), scientists at Louisiana State University said on Monday – about the size of the state of Massachusetts, and five times the average.

Experts blamed unusually high rainfall across the U.S. Midwest this Spring that washed farm fertilizers along streams and rivers through the Mississippi River Basin out into the Gulf.

The nutrients in the fertilizers feed algae that die, decompose and deplete the water of oxygen, the Louisiana scientists said.

When the oxygen is below two parts per million, any shrimp, crabs, and fish that can swim away, will swim away, Louisiana State University ocean ecologist Nancy Rabalais told the National Geographic magazine.

“The animals in the sediment [that can’t swim away] can be close to annihilated.”

“The problem might get even worse if any more significant tropical storms wash out more farm-fed nutrients,” the scientists said.

Sewage run off, caused by the spring floods, also add to the problem, National Geographic reported.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a slightly smaller 7,829 square-mile spread. The record was 8,776 square miles set in 2017.

“A major factor contributing to the large dead zone this year is the abnormally high amount of spring rainfall in many parts of the Mississippi River watershed,” the agency said in its annual “dead zone” forecast.

A solution would be to keep fertilizer and sewage run-off from getting into the rivers, NOAA said.

A Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force has been monitoring the problem and has set goals to reduce run-off.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Friend
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Sounds like they plan on stopping water from running down stream? hmmmm sounds kinda like the global warming debacle they harp about, or maby it was the coming ice age they once talked about.

Jill
Member

The oxygen levels in the forests decline every winter too. That makes sense, because the leaves fall and the trees slow down in winter. In the other hemisphere, the oxygen level is burgeoning there, as their summer coincides with our winter. Often this is not mentioned in the doom and gloom of the green people. Yes we are stewards of the earth as Adam was the first steward. We must be careful, but not crazy green. Unfortunately records were not kept years ago until someone noticed this dead zone, but it may have been going on through the millennia. We… Read more »

Den
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Den

Thanks for your opinion. But Scientists first discovered a dead zone in these waters in 1972, and it has appeared ever spring and summer since, with varying sizes. This year’s dead zone, measured from July 27 to August 2, is smaller than the five-year average of 5,550 square miles, and well under 2002’s record 8,481 square miles.Aug 5, 2014. Better to be conservative and cautious to protect the earth rather than dumping billions of tons of waste into a body of water and say I don’t have enough data to be convinced there’s a problem. Great stall tactic also used by the tobacco… Read more »

Phyllis Softa
Member

“We must be careful” as in the stop cheering on the Trump EPA’s rollback of Obama era protections of the polluting of our water? Or “We must be careful” as in let’s pretend there is no issue and let future generations figure it out?

Otis
Member

It’s a sad state of affairs. I suppose red tide will increase as well.

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