Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone (Hypoxia) is growing

Along with so many of our environmental problems, this is one more that seems quite alarming and troubling, not only for the fishermen but also the big picture of our ecosystem. Since I didn't know about it, I'm assuming maybe some of you didn't either.

Gulf 'dead zone' is growing, researchers say
By Beth Gallaspy, The Enterprise

Researchers this week expect to find the largest "dead zone" of oxygen-depleted water in the Gulf of Mexico since they started measuring more than two decades ago.

Based on the amount of nitrogen flowing into the Gulf this spring from the Mississippi River, Nancy Rabalais predicts a dead zone covering about 8,543 square miles, larger than the state of Massachusetts.

Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, has studied the Gulf dead zone, known scientifically as the hypoxic zone, since 1985.

Hypoxia in the Gulf means an area with less than 2 milligrams per liter of dissolved oxygen.

High nitrogen levels are the major factor in formation of a swath of low-oxygen bottom waters nearly devoid of marine life off the coast of Louisiana, sometimes reaching into Texas. This year, nitrogen levels are above the long-term average and above last year's level, even though the amount of water discharged from the Mississippi River basin is below average, Rabalais saidThe reason for the excess nitrogen is anyone's guess.

"It could be related to agricultural practices. It could be a climatic factor in the watershed," Rabalais said. Increased corn plantings as an alternative fuel source could have some impact, but it is too early to track a trend there, she said.

Researchers will begin measuring dissolved oxygen levels and taking other samples at the mouth of the Mississippi River on Friday and work their way west, covering as large an area as possible in eight days.

If the size prediction holds true, this year's dead zone would top the previous high of 8,500 square miles in 2002. Last year, it measured 6,662 square miles.

A separate survey by the NOAA research vessel Oregon II last month found areas of hypoxia off the Texas coast about 40 miles south of High Island and hugging the coastline from the western end of Galveston Island to Matagorda Bay.

The trip was cut short by mechanical problems before NOAA was able to look at the area off Sabine Pass and the Louisiana coast. That leg is scheduled to resume next week after repairs are complete.

Nelson May, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration physical scientist, said the main focus of the NOAA survey is the fishery, but other environmental data such as low oxygen are collected as well.

The effect of the lack of oxygen on the fishery is dramatic, May said. Sometimes nets in a hypoxic zone will find fish, but often they come up empty, May said.

"On other occasions, you can see the crabs swimming on the surface, trying to get out of it," he said.

"You definitely don't see any shrimpers in the hypoxic zone. They've got that figured out," May said. Rabalais said it's hard to pinpoint the long-term impact of the low-oxygen areas on the fishery. In the short term, people still are catching fish and shrimp, but it has become more difficult.

"Livelihoods are being affected because they aren't going as much or they're having to go out farther," she said.

For some, it's no longer worth it, "especially compared to the cost of fuel and competition from cheap imports."

bgallaspy@beaumontenterprise.com(409) 880-0726


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Friday, July 13, 2007

Tribute to Lady Bird Johnson

I actually was privileged enough to shake this lady's hand one time in the early Sixties, before she was First Lady. She was visiting in Beaumont and spoke at the Lamar College (it wasn't a university then). She was very lovely with the warmest smile you ever saw, and a hearty Texas sized handshake. Here's my humble tribute to a lady I have much admiration for:

590 KLBJ NEWS RADIO - Austin
Thousands Flock to View Lady Bird Johnson
7/13/2007 Newsroom

Thousands line up outside the L-B-J Library to pay their final respects to Lady Bird Johnson. Among them, former state senator Gonzalo Barrientos. "They made a real difference," Barrientos says, "and changed the world, literally." He says, were it not for President and Mrs. Johnson and "War on Poverty" programs, like VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), it would have been harder for him to go into public service. Others come to pay tribute to the former First Lady's grace, her love of the environment and her stands on Civil Rights. "She was a great lady," one woman waiting in line says. "She had a good sense of history." "Her love of nature is my main memory," one man waiting since about 10:00 am today says. Rick Scott and his family were vacationing from Eldorado, Kansas, when they heard of Mrs. Johnson's passing. "We went through Johnson City and Fredericksburg yesterday," Scott says. "Growing up in the 60s, we just felt we should be a part of this." Mrs. Johnson's body lies in repose in the Library's Great Hall, and the public is invited to pay their tributes all night and into tomorrow morning.

Thank you, Lady Bird!!!

Rest in Peace

Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson

(Dec 22, 1912 – July 11, 2007)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rare Bottlenose Dolphin sighted from Cameron Ferry

A couple of days ago there was an article about a rare pink dolphin seen from the Cameron, Louisiana, ferry. Cameron is only about 65 miles east/southeast from here. One day ( 4/24/04 to be exact!) Mom and I rode over that ferry when we were out taking pictures. We had followed the coast line up and stumbled into it - didn't even know it was there. The whole area was very desolate and the weather was rainy and cold and nasty, but we were out anyway. Rather than turning back, we opted to cross over the ferry and drive even more long desolate road up to Lake Charles, hit I-10 and then head west to get back home. There was precious little to take pictures of, and what I did get was pretty boring.
Here's one of my famous through-the-windshield shots for illustration lest I have nothing of my own in this post! :

Anyway, when I looked on the Enterprise website for the article and found it, I saw there was a link to this slideshow of the wildlife from the ferry. This really makes me want to go back!! I didn't even know there were dolphins in this part of the country -- much less such a rare one!! (these pictures according to the site, were taken on July 7th, so they're brand new! Mark Hancock, photographer)

Here's the article, too, if you're interested:
Albino dolphin spied around Calcasieu Lake

Even though these aren't mine, it's at least in my general neighborhood and I thought it worthy of sharing!!

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