Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force to Finalize 2008 Action Plan
Culminating a multi-step reassessment of the 2001 Action Plan, The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force intends to finalize its updated Action Plan during the groupís 16th meeting on February 28-29, 2008 in Chicago, IL. The 2001 Action Plan was developed by the Task Force to address the Nationís largest recurring hypoxic zone (a dead zone devoid of oxygen) that threatens a $2.8 billion fishery in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The updated 2008 Action Plan reiterates the Task Forceís commitment to the framework of the original plan, including continued encouragement of voluntary actions, and maintains the coastal goal of reducing the size of the hypoxic zone to 5,000 km2. In addition to updated science, including the results of an Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board Report, the 2008 Action Plan incorporates emerging issues such as changes in agriculture due to increased demand for biofuels, reauthorization of conservation programs within the Farm Bill, and the loss of coastal wetlands. During their meeting, the Task Force also intends to finalize an Annual Operating Plan, which contains greater specificity and accountability of actions within the 2008 Action Plan. A dedicated public session will include a public comment period and presentations on the reassessment process, allowing for maximum stakeholder engagement at this meeting. Although the size of the hypoxic zone (20,500 km2 in 2007) has not decreased since the original 2001 Action Plan, NOAA remains committed to working with its partners on the Task Force to reach the goal of reducing the hypoxic zone to annual size of 5,000 km2.