There are good ways and bad ways for Louisiana to gain distinction, and having one of the biggest dead zones on record off the state’s coastline isn’t something to brag about. A dead zone is an area of low oxygen in a body of water caused by an excess of nutrients. Dead zones create conditions that cannot support sea creatures, and that’s a threat to the health of fisheries and other marine life. Scientists predict that this summer’s dead zone off the coast of Louisiana could be the size of New Jersey, one of the largest on record.
The growth of dead zones has been linked with commercial fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi River, which then carries the runoff into the Gulf. We need a healthy Gulf to sustain the state’s fisheries, a vital food source for the world. We’re glad that Louisiana scientists are collaborating with scientists in other states to explore solutions to this problem. Many of the factors driving dead zones develop far beyond the state’s borders, and limiting the growth of dead zones must be a national mandate — even for those Americans who live far from the coast.