Focus On The Gulf


We are coming up to the 10th anniversary of the NOAA/EPA/USGS/UMCON report on the cause of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico at the very time when the Gulf oil spill is receiving a lot of media and even Presidential attention. First lets put the two events into an environmental impact perspective.

The oil spill is very detrimental to any surface oriented species such as ducks or as it approaches the Coast the wetland shallow water species such as shrimp and oysters.

Hypoxia caused by nutrient stimulation of algae is a deep-water phenomenon. The dead algae die and sink to the bottom where they are decomposed by bacteria, which use up the oxygen and cause total oxygen depletion on the bottom. The bottom oxygen depletion progresses up the water column and results in low oxygen and surface toxic tides.

Gulf Hypoxia currently affects all species in the water column in an area the size of the State of New Jersey. The oil spill affects some species but not the major finfish population, which are able to swim away and avoid the problem. Overall the annual Gulf dead zone is many times more destructive than the oil spill.

Why then all the attention to the rare oil spill and virtually no attention to annual Gulf hypoxia?

The unfortunate answer probably is that the general public at this time knows there is a connection between cheap corn fed meat and cheap processed food and prefers cheap unhealthy food to their long-term health and the health of the environment. There is some evidence that this attitude is changing. If so it may be too late to save the Gulf and other Estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay.


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