'Dead Zone' In The Gulf Of Mexico Almost Double In Size Now

First Posted: Jun 26, 2017 04:20 AM EDT

The massive "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico has now almost doubled in size. The scientists discovered there was an increase in size of the dead zone by about 57 percent this year.

This was initially published on Seeker. The study was led by researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU). The scientists estimated that the dead zone might have been covering more than 10,000 square miles or 26,000 square kilometers off the shores of Louisiana and Texas, according to Live Science.

Nancy Rabalais, a professor of marine ecosystems at LSU, said that the high water in the Mississippi River and higher-than-average nitrogen concentrations in the waterway this spring are driving the estimate upward. She further said that there was a lot of nitrate coming out in May that was the biggest factor in their prediction.

Dead zones are triggered by excessive nutrient pollution from human activities and other factors that reduce the oxygen in the world's oceans and large lakes. These are also referred to as hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas.

The Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is the largest dead zone in the United States. The Mississippi River that is the drainage area for 41 percent of the continental United States throws out high-nutrient runoff like nitrogen and phosphorous in the Gulf of Mexico.

The runoff and the nutrients from animal and human wastes trigger the growth of algae that die and decompose. This depletes the oxygen levels offshore and kills the marine species that cannot leave the affected areas.

According to researchers from Duke University, the dead zone could also lead to higher prices for large shrimp as the fishing boats that working the hypoxic water end up with a bigger share of smaller shrimps in their nets. Meanwhile, Professor Rabalais said that there is a federal-state task force to come up with recommendations state by state to lessen nutrients.

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