Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

| August/September 2006

  • dead zone, Gulf of Mexico dead zone,dead zone usa, hypoxia
    Nitrogen from fertilizer runoff causes huge dead zones in the oceans where fish and other marine life can't survive.

  • dead zone, Gulf of Mexico dead zone,dead zone usa, hypoxia
In the Gulf of Mexico, several miles off the Louisiana coast, lies one of the world's largest 'dead zones' ? oxygen-deprived areas devoid of all marine life. Researchers predict that this summer, the dead zone will grow to cover nearly 6,700 square miles, an area roughly half the size of Maryland, and far larger than its size in recent years of 4,800 square miles.

Worst of all, the dead zone is human-made: runoff from farms in the Midwest adds as much as 7.8 million pounds of nitrate fertilizer to the Mississippi River and its tributaries each day during peak loading periods, which then runs downriver and empties into the Gulf. As it does with plants grown on land, the nitrogen causes algae and plankton in the area to flourish, using all available oxygen in the water. The result is hypoxia, an oxygen depleted dead zone in which fish and other marine life simply cannot survive.

According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, much of the fertilizer runoff comes from heavily subsidized farms in the Corn Belt, an area that includes Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Corn requires the highest fertilizer input of any major crop, and about 45 percent of all commodity support payments in that area go to its production. The money typically spent on taxpayer-funded farm subsidies in the area dwarfs the amount spent on efforts to protect water quality and conservation by a ratio of more than 500 to 1.

To learn more about the dead zone, visit the Science Museum of Minnesota's interactive site, or the Mississippi River Basin Alliance.

MIKE withheld
11/9/2006 12:00:00 AM

I found this story to be both eye opening, and yet, sadly, redundant. While I applaud your efforts to get this information "out there", I can tell you one thing for certain, Mid-westerners aren't hearing it. I live in rural southern Minnesota, and really wish I had better news but I just don't see it getting better. And now, with Ethanol on the horizon? I'm not a farmer, but living in rural Minnesota you get quite an agricultural education, like it or not! This fall has seen more sludge and hog waste being dumped on these fields out here than I've ever seen. Looks like they're preparing for big time production next year. Wish I had better news.

AARON Kibbie
8/14/2006 12:00:00 AM

Sorry to hear you lost your home to the hurricane. I hope things are going well for you now. It is so sad to hear of the negative impact of our society when there is so much we could be doing for good. Best wishes to you.

L Sart
8/14/2006 12:00:00 AM

I no longer live on the Gulf Coast due to the hurricane but I will say that just about all the dead fish looked to be saltwater catfish type and other bottom feeder type , also the wind blows from the south and blows the filth wash up on the shores all along the Gulf Coast shores of Texas & Louisiana , that seems to be a holding stop place of all the filth and garbage thats dumped out in the ocean. It took a tractor with a front loader to remove and pile up all the dead fish. The Gulf can really have warm water , when you add the trash filth and waste thats dumped into the water along with all the dead fish... it's a perfect breeding ground for bacteria !!!!

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