Second Dead Zone in the Gulf Stetches Along Mississippi CoastBy Rhonda Miller | Published 14 Mar 2012 10:22pm |
Dead zones, where oxygen levels are too low to support life, are increasing in the Gulf of Mexico. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports a recent study found a dead zone in the Gulf stretching along Mississippi’s barrier islands.
Every year, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium maps what’s called the dead zone, or areas of low oxygen, along the Louisiana coast. That well-known dead zone runs from the Mississippi River westward to Texas.
But during the past year, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation expanded its own annual study of the dead zone farther eastward. Executive director and scientist John Lopez says the dead zone just keeps going.
"What we had seen was like 200 or 300 square miles suddenly was now about 1,000 square miles, and a lot of that, is once again, it’s along the Mississippi Coast, but we believe it’s pretty much outside of, or south of, the barrier islands along the Mississippi coast."
Lopez says the study done last summer found the dead zone stretches 20- to-30 miles south into the Gulf. He said it generally disappears when tropical storms stir up the water, and add oxygen.
"Where this water has the low oxygen, things like shellfish, clams, oysters they can’t swim away. This water's sitting on the bottom, and it will, there’s no question, it will kill whatever’s there and can’t swim away."
Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where the economy, environment and culture are intertwined with seafood, marine biologist Ed Cake of Ocean Springs says this newly-defined dead zone requires attention.
"It’s vitally important to our seafood resources and it’s vitally important to the environment off the coast of Mississippi."
Fisherman James A. “Catfish” Miller of D’Iberville doesn’t need science to tell him about the dead zones. He sees them.
"Well, when we go through it we’ll mark, one shrimp, two shrimp, one shrimp, two shrimp, no shrimp, no shrimp, no shrimp. I keep draggin’ cause I don’t turn around. I keep going, and then when you get out of that three-mile area, you’ll start catching 15, 20, 30, 40, a hundred shrimp."
This summer, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation plans to continue its study of the dead zone and hopes to collaborate with officials in Alabama and Mississippi.
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