From: NOAA Headquarters
Published June 10, 2016 10:53 AM

NOAA, USGS, partners predict an average 'dead zone' for Gulf of Mexico

Scientists forecast that this year's Gulf of Mexico dead zone--an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life - will be approximately 5,898 square miles or about the size of Connecticut, the same range as it has averaged over the last several years.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico affects nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries. Hypoxic zones or "dead zones" are caused by high levels of nutrients, primarily from activities such as industrialized agriculture and inadequate wastewater treatment.

The low oxygen levels cannot support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters. Organisms that can flee the dead zones leave the area, while others which cannot leave are stressed or die of suffocation. Reducing nutrients flowing to the Gulf would help the situation since, under normal conditions, this area contains a diversity of marine life, critical habitats, and a number of key fisheries.

"Dead zones are a real threat to Gulf fisheries and the communities that rely on them," said Russell Callender, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service. "We'll continue to work with our partners to advance the science to reduce that threat. One way we're doing that is by using new tools and resources, like better predictive models, to provide better information to communities and businesses."

Gulf of Mexico image: NASA

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