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Tue Jun 11, 2019, 12:59 PM

'A major punch in the gut': Midwest rains projected to create near-record dead zone in Gulf


As rain deluged the Midwest this spring, commercial fisherman Ryan Bradley knew it was only a matter of time before the disaster reached him.

All that water falling on all that fertilizer-enriched farmland would soon wend its way through streams and rivers into Bradley’s fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. The nutrient excess would cause tiny algae to burst into bloom, then die, sink, and decompose on the ocean floor — a process that sucks all the oxygen from the water, turning it toxic. Fish would suffocate or flee, leaving Bradley and his fellow fishermen nothing to harvest.

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Louisiana State University confirmed Bradley’s worst fears in forecasts published Monday, predicting this spring’s record rainfall would produce one of the largest-ever “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico. An area the size of New Jersey could become almost entirely barren this summer, posing a threat to marine species — and the fishermen who depend on them.

“It’s just a major punch in the gut,” said Bradley, a fifth-generation commercial fisherman from Long Beach, Miss. Bradley is executive director for Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, a nonprofit that supports the state’s fishermen.

Bradley said he plans to travel to D.C. this month to ask federal lawmakers to declare a fisheries disaster, making relief funds available to affected fishermen. “To have a total wipeout,” he said, “which is what we’re going to have here now, I don’t know if our guys are going to be able to make it.”

First farmers and now fishermen getting punched in the gut. I can't wait to see what our presidential administration does to help these folks before the next election.

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