BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Oil is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico — the result of the sinking of an oil rig last week. A spill of this magnitude so close to the wetlands, estuaries and national fisheries of south Louisiana is unprecedented.
Though it's unclear how badly wildlife along the Gulf Coast will suffer, the timing of the spill couldn’t be worse. This is peak spawning and nesting season for many species of fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals. Many species remain in set breeding areas during this time and there’s less instinct to move away from danger.
Disturbances to nests, fish spawning grounds or key links in the food chain might have lasting effects on species already at risk, commercial fish stocks and the people who make a living harvesting them. Minor oil spills are relatively common on the Gulf Coast, but this one has biologists, wildlife agencies, conservation groups and fishermen particularly concerned.
Here’s a selection of animals at risk in the open water, along the coasts and in the wetlands.
1. North Atlantic bluefin tuna
The Great Bluefin Tuna, prized for sushi and sashimi, is one of the species most in danger of slipping into extinction. Traveling down across the Atlantic seaboard, bluefin tuna spawn in the Gulf of Mexico between mid-April and mid-June.
2. Sea turtles
Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species live, migrate and breed in the Gulf region. Kemp's ridley is the world's most endangered species of sea turtle, and one of its two primary migration routes runs south of Mississippi. Loggerhead turtles, also endangered, feed in the warm waters in the Gulf between May and October.