April 28, 2010 / 10:00 PM / in 9 years

FACTBOX-Possible environmental impact of Gulf oil spill

 April 28, (Reuters) - A giant oil slick from last week's
deadly offshore drilling rig explosion in the U.S. Gulf of
Mexico threatens wide-scale coastal damage for four states.
 Following are some possible impacts from the spill on the
Gulf environment, commercial fisheries, wildlife and tourism.
 For latest story on U.S. Coast Guard efforts click:
 - A number of fisheries could suffer as a result of the
spill. The Gulf menhaden fishery -- a species harvested mostly
for fish meal and fish oil -- is America's third largest and in
some seasons its second largest, according to Greenpeace.
Menhaden are filter feeders and so they could be badly affected
by the spill, as they pass tainted water through their
filtering system. The season for Texas, Louisiana and
Mississippi just opened on April 19th.
 Omega Protein Corp OME.N -- which relies on the fishery
for its core business -- said in a statement on Wednesday that:
"We believe that the impact, if any, on our Gulf of Mexico
fishing operations will be minimal."
 - The northern Gulf of Mexico is a crucial spawning ground
at this time of the year for the Atlantic population of bluefin
tuna, which is critically endangered. Their eggs float near the
surface and the larvae also stay near there after they first
hatch. So, the spill has occurred at a critical time in their
 "We expect a spill like this could dramatically decrease
the amount of bluefin tuna larvae that are surviving," said
John Hocevar, the Oceans Campaign director for Greenpeace USA.
 - Losses could also be inflicted on the shrimp and oyster
industries in Louisiana. Oysters are filter feeders and cannot
swim to escape the slick. The prime oyster-gathering season in
Louisiana starts on May 1.
 - Several areas that are important to bird populations
could be potentially affected.
 According to the National Audubon Society, places it has
designated as "Important Bird Areas" or IBAs that could be
threatened by the slick include, Chandeleur Islands IBA and
Gulf Islands National Seashore IBA in Louisiana and
Mississippi; also in Louisiana, the Delta National Wildlife
Refuge and Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area.
 Species at risk include, Louisiana's state bird, the brown
pelican, which was only removed from the U.S. Endangered
Species Act last year. They nest on barrier islands and feed
near shore. Their breeding season has just started.
 Other species that would not fare well, especially if the
slick comes ashore, include the American oystercatcher and
Wilson's plover.
 - Depending on where the slick goes, a number of beaches
could be adversely impacted in areas such as the northwestern
part of Florida, which has been running televised ads aimed at
attracting tourists to the area.
 - Several species of sea turtles are currently moving
through the Gulf, as their spring nesting seasons commences and
they need to surface to breathe, so the slick at the water's
top could damage their populations.

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