Dead Zones in the Gulf, Steelhead in the Elwha, and Currents in the Great Lakes

The Monday Nooze for you:

From Sarah Shipley Hiles, writing for Environmental Health News, a look at the Gulf of Mexico’s infamous dead zone, and why the culprit might not be as obvious as we once thought:

Dead zone pollutant grows despite decades of work. But who’s the culprit?

For two centuries, the town of Hermann has been known for the Missouri River. But now the river is making Hermann known for an unexpected reason: It is a hot spot for nitrate. Despite three decades of costly efforts to clean it up, the levels at Hermann have increased 75 percent since 1980. From farm and urban runoff, nitrate throughout the vast Mississippi River basin funnels into the Gulf of Mexico, where it sucks oxygen out of the water and kills almost everything in its path. One of America’s most widespread and challenging environmental problems, this pollution continues to pour into the rivers – and ultimately the Gulf – at a growing pace. And no one has figured out exactly why. One theory is that more fertilizer is washing into the watershed because corn acreage has skyrocketed. But some old nitrate could be bubbling up from contaminated groundwater, and urban population growth could play a role, too…. Read more.

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Lynda Mapes with The Seattle Times reports that after a 100-year absence, the grey ghosts of the Elwha River are back:

Steelhead Spawning in the Elwha

John McMillan, fish biologist based in Port Angeles for NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center of Seattle saw the 35-inch male steelhead in the Little River last month. The fish had no tag and was much bigger than the fish he and colleague Ray Moses of the Lower Elwha Kallam Tribehave been capturing, tagging and re-locating to help spark colonization of the river. This fish though found its way back on his own, probably attracted by the scent of females already relocated to the tributary, McMillan thinks.

“We saw this really large fish, we hadn’t tagged anything like it, it was also in better condition than all the other fish,” McMillan said. “We could only conclude it had made it up there on its own. It’s like Field of Dreams,” he added. As in, build it, and they will come. Or in this case, un-build it. “Not everyone gives them enough credit,” he said of the wild fish. “I give them a lot of credit… Read more.

A wild male steelhead. (Photo John McMillan)

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And, while this wasn’t generated by an IJNR Fellow, I thought it might be useful and fun to include anyway, since so many of our alumni are located in the Great Lakes region: From NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory,  a cool map of Great Lakes currents.

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About IJNR

IJNR (Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources) is a non-profit organization that increases public awareness of natural resource issues through hands-on professional development programs for journalists.
This entry was posted in Agriculture, Fisheries, News from Fellows, Pollution, Technology, Water, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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