Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gulf of Mexico: Paradise or Zone of Death?

     The Gulf of Mexico...we think of the beach, spring vacation and fun in the sun. But while taking a dip next time, consider the fact that you may be in the midst of a dead zone!

     The Gulf of Mexico is a large salt water basin enclosed by southern United States, Mexico, and the Island of Cuba. While often warm, inviting waters, a large 6 to 7 square miles of this basin makes up one of the largest dead zones in the world.

     Extending from the Mississippi River Delta to the upper Texas Coast, the dead zone can be seen even by satellite images showing millions of tons of nutrients being washed from land in to the ocean. Overloads of nitrogen and phosphorus caused by run off from all the major farming states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Many tons of fertilizers, soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage are dumped into the ocean. The large input of nitrogen and phosphorus sparks a boom in algae, then a chain reaction of major oxygen depletion.

    As we saw with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico is a huge supplier of most of North Americas seafood industry. 72% of U.S. harvested shrimp, 66% of harvested oysters, and 16% of commercial fish (Potash and Phosphate Institutes of the U.S. and Canada, 1999) directly come from the gulf. These dead zones are potential killers for all sea life and directly limit the seafood industry. If we are not mindful of our interaction with the planet, the fishing industry might very well become a subject for the history books.

-Justin Buley

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