Dead zone still too large

August 15, 2014 at 10:01 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

We’ve been trying to end the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast for some 30 years now and we haven’t gotten very far. Nancy Rabalais, executive director of Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium of Cocodrie, and her crew of scientists recently returned from their annual tour of the Gulf to determine the current counts.

The results were disappointing.

This year, the size of the dead zone off Louisiana is about the size of the entire state of Connecticut - 5,052 square miles. That is much more than the national goal of reducing it to a 1,930-square-mile annual average by the year 2015. In other words, the goal will not be close to being met under that time frame.

The major problem lies with farmers in the mid-western part of the country who oversaturate their farms with fertilizer along the Mississippi River and its tributaries and allow it to flow to the river through Louisiana and into the Gulf of Mexico. When there, it settles to the bottom where it spurs growth of algae, which kills the fisheries when it decomposes.

Without storms to mix the upper oxygen filled waters with the oxygen depleted lower waters, the lower waters cannot support marine life. It is a tragedy for an area of marine life that can be so lively under natural conditions.

The Midwest farmers are mainly to blame for the killing of fisheries along the Gulf Coast. Originally they had obligations to release only the amount of fertilizer on their farms that would not flow into the Mississippi River and attack the Gulf Coast. But they have been very lax in their enforcement of such rules.

It seems the government should take action and require the farmers to allow the Gulf Coast to have the waters it needs for the habitation of fish. Enforcement of laws in place to provide a healthier environment is required of other industries also.

Though the dead zone this year was slightly smaller than the 5,840 square miles it was last year, it is still a major detriment to our fisheries off the Louisiana coast. At the present rate, it will continue to be a detriment for many more years. Unless we can get it down to the desired 1,930 square miles needed for a healthy Gulf Coast estuary, Louisiana and our entire fishing industry will suffer.

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