A “dead zone” is nothing new to the Gulf or any other bodies of water. It is an area in the ocean so low on oxygen that it can kill fish and other marine life. The dead zone returns every summer, but what makes it different this year is its size. The Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone grew to the largest size on record.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the dead zone is 8,776 square miles. Which makes the area about the size of New Jersey. It is the largest measured since dead zone mapping began there in 1985.
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What causes Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone to grow
The Mississippi river nutrient runoff plays a major role in the size of the dead zone. It shows that nutrient pollution continues to affect the coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf. This pollution is created primarily by agriculture and developed land runoff in the river’s watershed.
“These nutrients stimulate massive algal growth that eventually decomposes, which uses up the oxygen needed to support life in the Gulf.”, says NOAA.
Fish and marine life need oxygen. Without it, fish habitats will be lost or force them to other areas for survival. It can cause decreased reproduction in fish species as well as affecting the average size of shrimp.
The Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone may lead to fewer large shrimp due to slower shrimp growth, according to a study led by Duke University. The NOAA-funded study found the large size of the dead zone to create an economic impact that directly affects consumers, fishermen and seafood markets.
For additional graphics and information on this summer’s and previous years research missions visit LUMCON’s Gulf Hypoxia.