| GEO Health|
| Oil slick threatens fish, fowl and Louisiana economy|
| Updated at: 0658 PST, Saturday, May 01, 2010|
NEW ORLEANS: Dozens of species of land and sea animals, along with the fisherman who live off the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico and coastal wetlands off Louisiana, are under threat by a massive oil slick hitting the southeastern US shore.
At the epicenter of what could be the worst manmade ecological disaster to ever hit the United States -- the spot in the Gulf where 5,000 barrels of oil are spewing each day from a leaking sunken oil rig -- bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales are especially threatened, environmentalists told media.
Closer to shore, Louisiana's shrimp industry, which locals say is the source of most of the shrimp that goes onto dinner tables around the world, was looking at a doomsday scenario.
Fisheries officials opened the shrimp season Thursday at noon, at least a week before it was due to start, Margaret Curole, a former commercial shrimper and now a self-described fisheries activist, told media.
"They called the emergency opening of the season so the guys could try to go out and get a few shrimp before the oil gets here," she said.
On Friday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that many offshore shrimp fisheries and oyster beds had been shut and those closer to land would only remain open for a few more hours as the slick closed in.
The vast majority of shrimp fished in the Gulf are spawned in estuaries running from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya basin further west, Curole said.