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Aug 12, 2014 10:02 AM by By Nikela Pradier - npradier@kristv.com

Local Expert Warns of Threat to Marine Life in Gulf "Dead Zone"

CORPUS CHRISTI - Experts are keeping an eye on an area in the Gulf of Mexico that's oxygen-depleted and threatens to put a dent in our seafood industry.

An area known as the "dead zone" is the size of the state of Connecticut, about 5,000 square miles.

"When you use fertilizers, those all wash out into the Mississippi, primarily nitrogen and phosphorous, and they come to the Gulf of Mexico," Dr. Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, explains.

"And that's what determines how big these dead zones are."

McKinney says the fertilizer feeds algae growth. When the bloom dies and decays, it depletes the water of oxygen, making it hard for marine life to survive.

McKinney says much of the runoff from that fertilizer comes from crops in the Midwest. He says Corpus Christi and surrounding areas pay a high price for farming practices thousands of miles away.

"If we get larger dead zones on a constant basis, we'll have very low-oxygen waters off Corpus Christi all summer. And our tourism industry, our fishing industry ... We just can't take that. That's too big of an economic hit."

Learn more about the phenomenon known as the "dead zone" here.

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