Threats to the species include energy exploration and development, oil spills and clean up efforts, vessel strikes, human noise and entanglement in fishing gear. There are less than 100 of the whales left in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico near the De Soto canyon, where the population resides.
Gulf of Mexico
Red tide, a type of marine algae that undergoes an explosive growth and begins producing toxins, typically occurs off Florida’s southwest coast every year between late summer and fall and spring. Due to currents and winds, some tides never reach shore. But this year’s tide, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials say, is the worst since the last big tide in 2006, that lasted for more than a year and a half and killed more than 250 manatees. Weather forecasters expect hazardous beach conditions to last at least through Thursday, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
“As discussed in the press release, there still remains a need to reduce the nutrient load entering the Gulf of Mexico and the smaller observed size was likely a result of storm and wind conditions and are not necessarily an indication of a long-term decrease in hypoxia area,” said Keeley Belva, a spokeswoman for the National Ocean Service.
One surprise in their findings, Murawski said, was that the part of the gulf with the lowest diversity of fish species is the area of the gulf with the greatest number of offshore oil rigs.
“They’ve had 50 to 60 years of oil development there,” he said. “So that may be one of the at-risk areas” in case of a future oil spill. A disaster like Deepwater Horizon could more easily wipe out the fish living there to the point where they could not bounce back, he explained.
Intensive agriculture near the Mississippi has led to fertilizers leeching into the river, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico, via soils and waterways. This has resulted in a huge oxygen-deprived dead zone in the Gulf that is now at its largest ever extent, covering an area greater than the state of New Jersey.
Oceans offer natural benefits that sustain coastal economies, provide diverse opportunities for the tourism sector and help to protect communities against natural disasters, amongst other benefits. Therefore, maintaining the health of these marine ecosystems is essential.
The slice of land that has supported the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians through trapping fishing, and agriculture for 170 years is rapidly being swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico.