Biloxi, MS-June 14, 2011- Recent record flooding on the Mississippi River has devastated dozens of communities by destroying homes, businesses, and farm land. Scientists are now concerned that this additional water from acres of flooded, fertilized farm land will have negative impacts on the Gulf of Mexico. Water that runs off of farm lands contains excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from a number of sources which contribute to the creation of the “Dead Zone”, an annual phenomenon in the Gulf.
Every summer, this Dead Zone occurs in the Gulf when the oxygen in the water gets so low that fish and other marine life either swim away or die. Low oxygen, or hypoxia, happens as nutrient-rich freshwater from the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya rivers flow into the Gulf at the same time as the surface waters of the Gulf become very warm. The Gulf Dead Zone is the largest hypoxic area in the United States. Even without record-setting floods, the Dead Zone has been measured by scientists to be larger than the size of New Jersey in recent years. A larger than average Dead Zone threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries.
Healthy and productive Gulf fisheries support strong communities and a regional economy. That’s why the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and its partners created THE PRIMER ON GULF OF MEXICO HYPOXIA. The Alliance is committed to developing and implementing strategies that reduce nutrient inputs and hypoxia. The Primer was published in conjunction with Alliance partners including the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. The publication includes common questions and answers about hypoxia, such as what it is, what causes it, and what can be done about it.
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance recognizes the economy and quality of life for citizens of the Gulf are linked to its ecological health. As the result of a shared vision for a healthy and resilient Gulf of Mexico region, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas formalized the Alliance in 2004. A not-for-profit organization, the Alliance’s mission is to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf region by encouraging collaboration among government agencies, businesses, educators and non-governmental organizations. Priority issues addressed by the Alliance include water quality, habitat conservation, ecosystem assessment, nutrient impacts, community resilience and environmental education. To learn more about the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, visit www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org.