July 25, 2017
Those who catch seafood for a living are struggling with what they call the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. And it looks like the impact could be a lot closer than people think.
Crabbers and shrimpers are already finding dead crabs in their traps and smaller shrimp. Even families that have caught seafood for generations are considering walking away from the business altogether because of the dead zones.
What’s worse is officials predict this year’s dead zone in the Gulf will be the worst it has ever been. Nancy Rabalais, a professor at Louisiana State University, told the Advocate that it could reach the size of Vermont.
The dead zone is caused by hypoxia. It’s defined as low oxygen levels that make it hard for most marine life — like shrimp, crabs and oysters — to survive.
The main culprit comes from the Mississippi River. During the spring, rainwater carries waste from humans and animals, along with fertilizer and other chemicals, from the tributaries of more than 30 states.
Once the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico, algae feed on the chemicals and die. The algae decompose and cause the water to be more acidic, which in turn reduces oxygen levels.
While fish and shrimp can get out of the dead zones, it can stunt their growth. Others, like clams and oysters, aren’t as lucky and end up dying.
What’s frustrating is the problem seems to be coming from the midwestern states, according to Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. It’s a shame that Louisiana is stuck dealing with the consequences of other states.
Another issue is a lack of funding to adequately deal with the problem. Some have blamed a lack of knowledge on the effects of hypoxia. But those excuses hold little weight.
Doug Daigle, founder of the Louisiana Hypoxia Working Group, said he has concerns about what President Donald Trump’s administration will do to address the dead zones.
Consumers will also feel the effects of hypoxia when having to pay more for shrimp or other seafood at a restaurant or vendor.
What’s clear is people should know about the dead zone and just how far-reaching its impacts are. As a community who values seafood and those who make a living catching it, it’s important to be informed and let our officials know that something must be done to stop this from getting any worse.