Observed and Potential Impacts on the Fishing Industry

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A Sociological Perspective

There is a vast potential cultural change within the fishing industry due to the hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Social, economic, political, and biological implications create the base in which the well-being of the fishing culture depends upon. Former EPA head Bill Ruckelshaus quotes, "The problem isn't so much with managing fish as it is with managing people having different needs, values, laws, institutions, and accessibility to the fish and the resources upon which they depend." (Noonan 1997) Because there hasn't yet been a "great collapse" in the fishing industry, many have avoided the present impact of the Gulf's hypoxic conditions and the great potential devasation of the Gulf fishing culture. The "great collapse" has not yet happened due to the great biological diversity within the Gulf of Mexico, though if the hypoxic zone continues to grow, there very well may be complete devastation.

The effects have already been felt by numerous fishing industries based on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The hypoxic zone was documented to be the primary reason for the closure of the Zapata menhaden processing plant in Dulac, Louisiana (Hanifen 1997). This closure caused hundreds of lost jobs and a few relocated jobs. Conditions within the Gulf of Mexico is a direct threat to employment within the fishing industy.

Already, fishermen on the Gulf coast have had to travel far distances to find more productive waters. Gulf coast fishermen are exerting much more energy and expending much more time just to sustain a minimal supply. Fishermen are traveling hundreds of miles on order to catch commercial fish, shrimp, and crab (Sierra Club). As the hypoxic impact increases with time, there will be a great threat to those connected and dependent on the Gulf fishing industry. Their personal livelihood, and the entire culture within the fishing industry remains at stake.

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