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Scientists link shrimp price fluctuations with 'dead zones'
2017-02-06 16:18:21 copyfrom： hits:
Vessels of the shrimp fleet operating in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)
Saturday, February 04, 2017, 01:20 (GMT + 9)
A study led by Duke University suggests that the price of big-sized shrimp can rise as a direct result of pollution from fertilizers, which cause hypoxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
The study, whose results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first long-sought evidence to link hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico with economic impacts.
The research was funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Fulbright Scholars Program and the Research Council of Norway.
“Many studies have documented the ecological impacts of hypoxia, but establishing a clear causal link to economic losses in affected fisheries has been elusive,” said Martin D. Smith, Professor of Environmental Economics at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
“Our study does this by showing how seasonal hypoxia off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts drives monthly fluctuations in market prices in the Gulf brown shrimp fishery, a major fishery that was once the most valuable in America,” the researcher added.
Coastal hypoxia is a worldwide problem linked to fertilizer use in agriculture. These products raise the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the land, and when it rains, the runoff from inland watersheds can lead to the growth of oxygen-consuming algae offshore.
The so-called dead-zones that result can affect marine life by slowing the growth of fish and shrimp, in some cases sparking widespread die-offs.
The new finding helps quantify the real-world market value of reducing nutrient pollution flowing into the oceans, Smith stressed.
The scientists involved in the research examined monthly trends in the price of Gulf brown shrimp from 1990 to 2010. Their analysis revealed a recurring pattern of spikes in the price of large shrimp relative to small ones during months when hypoxic dead zones occurred -- typically late spring and summer.
“Because fishermen are catching more small shrimp and fewer large ones during these months, the price of small shrimp goes down and the price of large ones goes up, creating a short-term disturbance in the market that we can track,” Smith explained.
The professor suggested that past efforts to track this type of market impact have failed because researchers focused on changes in the quantity of shrimp caught during hypoxic events, rather than fluctuations in pricing.
“Looking at prices rather than quantities allows us to see the economic signal more clearly, without interference from these human and natural feedbacks that can compound or obscure the effects of hypoxia on a fishery,” he emphasized.
Researchers say their findings could be applied to other fisheries worldwide, showing that the significance of an ecological problem can be assessed in the price of affected natural resources.
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