Yesterday, researchers from several universities and governmental agencies released their annual prediction of the size of the Gulf Dead Zone, an area that forms at the mouths of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers and has such low amounts of oxygen that most sea life must swim away or suffocate.
The researchers state that this year the Dead Zone will probably be “average” size. It is sad that “average” is a whopping 4,633 to 5,708 square miles, or roughly the size of Connecticut.
Over a decade ago, the Dead Zone, or Hypoxia, Task Force was formed, which includes federal and state agencies. This Task Force’s goal was to lead a path towards the reduction of the size of the Dead Zone. Sadly, while they have had many meetings, drafted two “Action Plans,” and pushed solely voluntary mechanisms to reduce Dead Zone-causing pollution, we aren’t anywhere close to their stated goal. Their goal, which was supposed to be accomplished by next year, is a Dead Zone that averages approximately 2,000 square miles.
In order to start inching towards the Task Force’s goal, we can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. Each of the Mississippi River states must prioritize the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows off of agricultural fields and urban areas, as well as out of sewage treatment plants and industrial complexes. This is going to require not only investing much more in voluntary agricultural practices, but also setting limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that we will allow in the waters that flow into the Mississippi River.
Any portion of this statement may be quoted with attribution to Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director, Gulf Restoration Network.
Gulf Restoration Network is a 20-year-old non-profit dedicated to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.