Scientists from LUMCON, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium found a 5000 square mile stretch of the Gulf along the Louisiana coast that is a 'Dead Zone.' It's a little smaller than the 5500 square mile average over the past five years, but the scientists are still worried that the plan to shrink it by two thirds hasn't happened.
'There's an area in the Gulf of Mexico with very low oxygen that doesn't support fish, crabs, and shrimp for a lot of the year, and the source of the problem is in the Midwest of the U.S., with too many fertilizers,' said LUMCONDirector Dr. Nancy Rabalais.
Rabalais shows video from a dive next to an oil platform four years ago.
'You can still see a lot of fish,' Rabalais says at a point just under the surface.
But 65 feet down, the oxygen in the water has been depleted, and the bottom is lifeless.
'But you're not seeing any fish any more,' she notes. 'There's not as much growth on the platform.'
Rabalais says fertilizer draining from farms into rivers and lakes harms the Midwest as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
'The area in Lake Erie right now with the toxic algae is a problem for the drinking water in Toledo.'
Nancy Rabalais goes to Memphis next week to speak to a conservation group. She's been all over the country, from the Halls of Congress to farms in the Midwest urging them to use fewer fertilizers.
And she says many times the smaller farmers listen well.
'The large corporations are listening like this, but they know the issue now,' Rabalais says, covering her ears with her hands.
But Rabalais said the Dead Zone remains a serious economic issue.
'When you consider an area the size of New Jersey or Connecticut where a trawler puts over a net, and doesn't catch anything, that's a fairly substantial area.'