Scientists are predicting that this year’s “dead zone” of low-oxygen water in the northern Gulf of Mexico will be the largest to date. Every year when the nutrient-rich freshwater of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers pour into the Gulf, it causes massive algae blooms. Then this algae consumes the oxygen in the Gulf, making the low oxygen conditions.
Shrimp, fish and many other species have to escape the dead zone or face dying.
Federal scientists are predicting that this year’s zone will be between 8,500 square miles and about 9,400 square miles. The actual size of the dead zone is to be measured this summer.
The largest recorded dead zone was in 2002 with 8,400 square miles of the Gulf lacking sufficient oxygen for marine life.
The forecasts on the size of the hypoxic zone most of the time is close to the mark, however, hurricanes have shattered them in the past.
The biggest culprit is fertilizer and the phosphates and nitrates in them which wind up in the Mississippi River every spring and get flushed out to the Gulf.
States in the Mississippi valley in concert with the federal government are attempting to reduce runoff from lawns, farms and cities, however, those efforts haven’t curbed the problem thus far.