Making a living as a shrimper in the coastal waters off Louisiana is a way of life for many of our state's residents. It's hard work and recently hard work with little reward. However, the next few weeks might find a little more money in the account of some coastal fishermen and the reason for that is one of the fisherman's arch nemesis, the Gulf Dead Zone.

The dead zone is an area of low oxygen in the water. This condition known as hypoxia is a real problem for fishermen who make their living off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. It is caused by nitrogen and phosphorus from Midwest farms and from nutrient-rich sewage from cities and rural areas entering the Gulf each spring and summer brought down by the Mississippi River.

This dead zone usually results in a decrease in the supply of larger shrimp. Therefore creating a larger demand and a higher price. The higher prices usually don't last very long and they also create another very dangerous side effect for Louisiana's shrimp industry. That side effect is an influx of imported shrimp on the market which becomes a viable alternative when prices reach a certain level.

The influence of the imported and farm raised shrimp usually bring the market price for larger shrimp down. That makes it harder and harder for a local fisherman to cover costs and make a profit.

A study released by the National Academy of Sciences found in its research that the dead zone is, in fact, a direct contributor to annual price spikes in the shrimp market. Perhaps this angle might be just the leverage Louisiana shrimpers need to get more government assistance in aiding their plight to make a decent living for a hard day's work.


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