BP works frantically to cap the runaway gush of crude a mile into the Gulf of Mexico.The oil settling on the ocean floor threatens every link to the aquatic food chain.
Paul Montagna is a marine scientist at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi. It may take years, but he thinks the shrimp industry will be one of the first to recover, assuming the oil doesn't damage the nursing grounds.
"The oil will flow to the surface, and shrimp of course live on the bottom. So that's why I think shrimp have a good chance of recovering more quickly. The big problem of course is, some of the oil dissolves in the water, It's a very small quantity, and it could actually give seafood an oily taste, and so there'll be some concern for awhile, making sure that everything is kind of up to the consumer levels."
Damage assessment is being conducted to natural resources and the status of wildlife populations along the coast. Speaking to reporters in Alabama, John Jarvis with the Interior Department says the effects of oil coming up a mile from the sea bed are being studied.
"And so, understanding that is gonna be really one of the keys. Also, getting out and doing these pre site condition assessment is essential to understanding what the pre-conditions are, so that we can then monitor over the long term, the affects of oil impact."
The Gulf ecosystem already stressed by fertilizer and other farm runoffÎ¾from the Mississippi River, and the loss of wetlands to erosion and development. Dr. Paul Montagna with A&M-Corpus Christi says that means sea life will be escaping that "dead zone" into waters contaminated by the oil spill.
"I hope BP and Transocean get that thing tapped as soon as they can, and hopefully this too will get beyond. It'll take a while. A big spill like this can have effects for many, many, many years out."