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Shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico Photo: Spike Johnson for Grist
The “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico in 2019 extended nearly 6000 square miles across — it’s caused by fertilizers and other nutrients coming via the Mississippi River from as far as Minnesota and Iowa and it’s an even bigger threat to ocean biodiversity and Louisiana’s $2 billion seafood industry than oil and gas spills, and it’s even harder to fix.A story by The Center for Public Integrity, Grist and The World documents how shrimpers in Louisiana are feeling the pain — the shrimp are smaller and less plump so the volume of fish caught keeps going down even though they have better equipment — improved radar, winches, and net technology.
Why This Matters: Politicians are gathered in Iowa for this week’s caucuses and they are getting an earful about the devastating floods last year. Iowa farmers are not the only small “farmers” who took a beating from the floods — so did fishermen more than a thousand miles away in Louisiana, and they can scarcely afford the blow. The swollen and sped up Mississippi River and its distributary, the Atchafalaya River, pumped 156,000 metric tons of nitrate and 25,300 metric tons of phosphorus into the Gulf of Mexico last May alone, which was well above long-term averages. Right now farmers are not required to limit their fertilizer runoff — and the Trump Administration has rolled back parts of the Clean Water Act that could have at least helped to cut it back. Shrimpers in Louisiana want to see strict federal limits on agricultural pollution entering the Mississippi, along with fines for non-compliance and even compensation to make them whole for historical damage to the industry.
What Is the Dead Zone?
The Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” is a massive, oxygen-deprived swath of water concentrated off the coast of Louisiana and Texas, fed by polluted freshwater from states along the Mississippi River. The River has been channelized to prevent flooding along its banks, but as a result, it is like a giant pipe carrying water with left-over nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer spread on farmland all across the Midwest — nearly 40% of the country. Those fertilizers and other chemicals encourage the growth of algae, which suck up oxygen and choke marine life and result in what’s known as “Hypoxia.”
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Today marks the last day of Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Don’t miss today’s talks on justice and equity as well as the CHOW Closing Plenary. Yesterday, experts got busy discussing international policy, inclusivity, and uplifting communities. Global ocean policy will play a significant role in halting catastrophic temperature rise, but we must […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Today kicks of Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 (CHOW), an annual, three-day event organized by the National Marine Sanctuary foundation that encourages activists worldwide to engage in dialogue about sustaining the health of our oceans and Great Lakes. This year, CHOW hopes to shine a light on the role of environmental justice and […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Capitol Hill Ocean Week is in full swing, and panelists from the government, private sector, and nonprofits are bringing their expertise to discuss significant issues facing our oceans and coastal communities. Yesterday, food security and justice were on the table, and panelists dove into incorporating traditional fisheries management strategies […]
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