From: USGS
Published June 22, 2017 08:20 AM

NOAA, USGS and partners predict third largest Gulf of Mexico summer dead zone ever

Federal scientists forecast that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone – an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life – will be approximately 8,185 square miles, or about the size of New Jersey.

This would be the third largest dead zone recorded since monitoring began 32 years ago – the average Gulf dead zone since then has been 5,309 square miles.

The Gulf’s hypoxic (low oxygen) and anoxic (oxygen-free) zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities such as agriculture and wastewater. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low oxygen levels are insufficient to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters, threatening the Gulf’s fisheries.

The Gulf dead zone may also slow shrimp growth, leading to fewer large shrimp, according to a NOAA-funded study led by Duke University. This could mean higher costs of large shrimp at the marketplace and an economic ripple effect on the Gulf shrimp fisheries.

 

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Photo via USGS.

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