Scientists predict second largest Gulf 'Dead Zone' on record

Don Ames
June 11, 2019 - 5:50 pm

The 2019 'Dead Zone' in the Gulf of Mexico is predicted by scientists to be the second largest on record.

That zone is an area that can't support marine life, due to lack of oxygen. 

This year's zone in the northern Gulf is estimated to be about the size of New Hampshire

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 the concentration of nitrogen in the water," says Rabalais. "And both are high this year." 

Researchers will map out the hypoxic area in July.

Rabalais says the low oxygen levels in the Gulf can impact shrimpers forced to either stay closer to shore where they'll get smaller shrimp that aren't 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," Rabalais said.

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 agriculture practices, but on the large scale right now there is not much happening," said Rabalais.

The dead zone does not pose a danger or health risk to humans.

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