Right now, in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, lies an area the size of New Jersey that's so oxygen-deprived it's void of almost all marine life.
The so-called "dead zone" isn't a new phenomenon: It appears in the Gulf, and other bodies of water, every summer. But what makes this year's Gulf dead zone unique is its magnitude: At 8,776 square miles, it's the largest ever since tracking began in 1985, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week.
Its size is projected to affect local fishing economies and is raising questions over the amount of pollutants that flow into our water — particularly nutrients from excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers.
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