July 29, 2016

Scientists had predicted average zone for 2016

NOAA and its partners have cancelled the official measurement survey cruise of the annual dead zone that forms off the coast of Louisiana and Texas. NOAA,which oversees the official annual measurement of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico cited mechanical problems with the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, which was scheduled to host the measurement cruise.

The annual cruise, which has been directed by Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium senior scientist Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D., has been conducted each summer for 30 consecutive years since 1985. The 2016 survey was slated to begin July 24 and continue through August 1. The effort, established in coordination with the interagency Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, is funded by NOAA and conducted through a partnership of NOAA, the Northern Gulf Institute, and LUMCON.

“Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico is a real threat to the ecosystem and all that rely on it,” said Rabalais. “We have to continue to focus on nutrient reductions if we are to have healthy and sustainable fisheries. Unfortunately the long range trend over the past 30 years continues to show little progress towards reducing the dead zone size to the 1,900 square miles that the task force has set.”

In June, scientists predicted that this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone – an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life – will be approximately 5,898 square miles or about the size of Connecticut, the same range as it has averaged over the last several years. The annual measurement survey is used to validate the annual forecast and to improve the accuracy of the models used to forecast the dead zone in future years.

The 187-foot NOAA Ship Nancy Foster suffered an engine problem and repairs could not be completed in time to undertake the monitoring survey. NOAA and partners sought to find a replacement vessel, but no alternative ships were available.