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Spreading ‘dead zone’ could choke off nutrients for local marine life

Recently the Midwest has been hit with heavy flooding, and as it turns out, that may have an impact for us living off the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost 60% of the U.S. river system drains through the Mississippi River.

With a large amount of rain hitting the Midwest, a vast number of nutrients will be drained out to the Gulf of Mexico, creating what’s known as a “dead zone.”

Dr. Larry McKinney, senior executive director at the Harte Research Institute, explains that as these nutrients get into the water it causes a plankton bloom.

“And then those plankton die and when they die, they use up the oxygen,” McKinney said. “And so this happens every year with the rains coming down the Mississippi, like they are now.”

As all of that oxygen gets taken, that leaves marine life in a life or death situation. Many try to rush to find fresh water, but unfortunately, a lot never make it.

McKinney says that last year’s dead zone was very small, yet the year before was about 8,000 square miles. And as of right now, the 2019 dead zone might be pretty large, too.

The size of these dead zones is proportional to the amount of rain received in the U.S.

As of right now, predictions for the 2019 dead zone are estimated to be at least 8,000 square miles.

The larger the dead zone grows in the Gulf, the closer it may get to the Coastal Bend.

“Corpus Christi has never really experienced it here in Corpus Christi,” McKinney said. “It’s covered Galveston and Matagorda Bay, but if it gets big enough, it will reach Corpus Christi.”

Currently, he doesn’t expect this year’s Mississippi dead zone to reach our area, but if it were to reach an area of 14,000-15,000 square miles, as some have predicted, then things could get bad.

“People who fish offshore, primarily, it might drive the fish out of this area,” McKinney said. “So it’d be harder to find, the shrimp as well. So that will affect the commercial and recreational fishing.”

New data on the dead zone will be released in late summer.


Tim Griffin

Tim Griffin

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