Record breaking 'Dead Zones' Predicted for Gulf of Mexico

Scientists from Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium are predicting the largestGulf of Mexico Dead Zone since 1985 this summer.  Dead Zones are low-oxygen zones in the ocean which are caused primarily by nutrient pollution from synthetic fertilizers.  Oxygen levels in these areas are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive, creating an area devoid of life.  This year that area is predicted to cover 7,286 square miles, which is equal to the combined area of Washington DC, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

In addition to being environmentally devastating, the Gulf Dead zone affects commercial and recreational fisheries and threatens the region's economy. This is also true for Dead Zones in other areas such as the Chesapeake Bay.  The Chesapeake dead zones threaten a multi-year effort to restore the Bay's water quality and enhance its production of crabs, oysters and other important fisheries.

All the forecasts are based on nutrient runoff, largely nitrogen and phosphorus, much of them from farms upriver.  There has been little progress in reducing the size of the Dead Zones, and without decreasing the use of synthetic fertilizers on farms we could see a continued increase in the size of Dead Zones in the future.