DC Accepted Papers Paper: Revitalizing the Blue Economy By Reducing Hypoxia in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Abdoulaye Ba, Carnegie Mellon University

"In a larger scale, the Gulf Coast region is vital, providing valuable energy resources, ample seafood, exceptional beaches and recreational activities, and an important cultural heritage. The Gulf is home to some of the most diverse environments in the world—including over 15,000 species of sea life. More than 22 million Americans live in Gulf coastal counties and parishes, working in the blue economy in crucial US industries such as commercial seafood, recreational fishing, tourism, and oil and gas production.

Despite its benefits, over recent years, the Gulf Coast region has experienced loss of critical wetlands, erosion of barrier islands,endangered fisheries, water quality degradation leading to, among many other impacts, one of the world’s largest hypoxias or dead ones every year, alteration of hydrology, and other cumulative environmental impacts.

Dead zones are characterized as the area of water bodies that have low oxygen(hypoxia) to support marine life. The excessive runoff of fertilizers, industrial emissions and sewage contribute enormously to the growth of the dead zone. These pollutants contain nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Such condition stimulates the excessive growth of algae that utilizes most of the oxygen in the water, leading to the depletion of oxygen that support marine life. Dead zones force marine species to leave their habitat to survive whilst shellfish(unable to migrate) such as oysters die because the low oxygen concentration in the habitat. This has also caused decline in shrimp and oyster production in the dead zones of the Gulf of Mexico.

In this research, we focus on providing public policy recommendations that will effectively reduce deadzones in hopes of revitalizing the blue economy of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region."