For Immediate Release:
August 3, 2021
Any of the below can be attributed to Matt Rota, Healthy Gulf’s Senior Policy Director
Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the measurement of the 2021 Gulf Dead Zone. This year’s Dead Zone was measured to be 6,331 square miles, approximately ten times the size of Lake Pontchartrain, or 1,000 square miles larger than Connecticut. This measurement, which is three times the Federal goal, demonstrates that not enough is being done to address the Dead Zone issue.
The Dead Zone is an area in the Gulf spanning from the Mississippi River, into Texas where nitrogen and phosphorus runoff pollution causes massive algae blooms. This year, these blooms resulted in an area 1,000 square miles larger than Connecticut where there is so little oxygen, sea life must swim away or suffocate. The Gulf Dead Zone is harmful both to the Gulf ecosystem and the fisherfolk that depend upon it.
Over the past decades we have witnessed the Dead Zone reach a massive size. Despite the formation of a Federal Task Force in 1997, the 5-year average size of the dead Zone has not significantly declined. It is frustrating to see a massive Dead Zone impacting the Gulf, when we know what is causing it. Further, according to a statement by Dr. Nancy Rabalis, an LSU scientist who has been researching the Dead Zone for 37 years, climate change may exacerbate the Dead Zone, due to changes in precipitation and rising ocean temperatures.
A Task Force with limited funds will not solve the Dead Zone issue. However, right now we have the opportunity to support the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative, a piece of legislation that was recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would create a Federal office focused on the health of the Mississippi and would include significant funds dedicated to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that feeds the Dead Zone.
In addition to these needed resources, changes must be made in the states, with Federal leadership. It is regrettable that the Task Force representative, Mike Naig of Iowa, talked around the issue of solely relying on voluntary pollution reduction. Given the statements made by the Task Force and Federal Agencies today, two things are clear:
LUMCON/LSU press release: https://gulfhypoxia.net/research/shelfwide-cruise/?y=2021&p=press_release
More information on the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative: https://mccollum.house.gov/MRRRI
Healthy Gulf is a regional nonprofit whose purpose is to collaborate with and serve communities who love the Gulf of Mexico by providing the research, communications, and coalition-building tools needed to reverse the long pattern of over exploitation of the Gulf's natural resources.