Scientists predict the 2019 Dead Zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico may be the second largest on record. The zone, which is estimated to be about the size of New Hampshire, is an area with very little oxygen that can’t support marine life. LSU Professor Dr. Nancy Rabalais says the swelling Mississippi River levels are to blame for the near-record size.
“It’s not just the amount of water, but its the concentration of nitrogen of the water and both are high this year,” said Rabalais.
Researchers will map out the hypoxic area in July.
What effects will the dead zone have on seafood?
Rabalais says the low oxygen levels in the Gulf can impact shrimpers as they may stay closer to shore and get smaller shrimp that are not worth much money, or choose to go further offshore beyond the dead zone.
“The shrimpers have to weigh between the costs of diesel fuel and going further, maybe getting a bigger price, but they are up against imports as well,” said Rabalais.
Where is the nitrogen in the dead zone coming from?
Rabalais says the higher nitrogen levels in the river come from fertilizer and chemical runoff from large farms along the Mississippi River watershed.
“There are a lot of very well intention smaller farmers doing the right thing, changing up their ag practices, but on the large scale right now there is not much happening,” said Rabalais.
The dead zone is not a danger to humans.
(Photo courtesy of Nancy Rabalais, LSU/LUMCON NOAA. It’s a graphic of the 2017 Dead Zone.)