The 2020 Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico is projected to be four times larger this year than the Hypoxia Action Plan goal established 19 years ago called for.

LSU Marine Science Professor Nancy Rabalias says this year’s 7,769 square mile dead zone is roughly the size of New Hampshire.

“It is in the top 25 percent of sizes that we have seen over the years,” says Rabalais.

The Dead Zone stretches along the bottom of the continental shelf along Texas and Louisiana.

Fertilizer from Midwest agriculture washes down the Mississippi River, exiting at the mouth forming an area of low oxygen and high nitrogen. Rabalias says it’s been getting worse.

“Especially with higher rainfall in the Midwest over several of those years that just means more of the nutrients are getting into the Gulf of Mexico,” says Rabalais.

Rabalais says despite recognizing the Dead Zone issue the federal government has not been able to tackle the problem.

“It is just the scale of the main type of agriculture that we have in the Midwest that is daunting to overcome,” says Rabalias.

This year is estimated to be the 7th largest dead zone since measurements began in 1985.

(Story written by Matt Doyle/Louisiana Radio Network)