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Goals unlikely to protect Gulf of Mexico shrimp industry

m documented the zone to be 5,800 square miles, or about the size of Connecticut.

Hypoxia occurs when increased nitrogen runoff causes algae blooms, which sink into bottom waters and are decomposed by bacteria, a process that consumes oxygen. The warm fresh water from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers also layer atop the colder salty Gulf waters, preventing atmospheric oxygen from getting to the bottom. As oxygen is consumed faster than it can be supplied, concentrations decrease below the critical 2 mg/l that defines hypoxia and has resulted in collapses of fisheries in other parts of the world. It's important to reduce the size of the dead zone in the Gulf because the area is important habitat for shrimp and other important fin and shellfish.

Hypoxia and other problems caused by excess nitrogen load are not unique to the Gulf of Mexico. Resent NOAA reports indicate that this problem occurs in more than 50 percent of US estuaries and the United Nations Environment Program has identified nitrogen overload and its contribution to the rapid growth of oxygen-starved zones in some coastal waters as an emerging global issue.


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Contact: Laura Bailey
baileylm@umich.edu
734-647-7087
University of Michigan
4-Aug-2004


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