The Oil Spill’s Devastating Impact

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has touched land today, and it’s likely to hit Americans straight in the gut.

Seafood prices are expected to skyrocket and small businesses are likely to suffer serious losses because of the spill, which was a result of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

The Rig, owned by British Petroleum (Stock Quote: BP), was being operated just off the Gulf Coast by offshore drilling contractor Transocean (Stock Quote: RIG). Since the spill began last week off the coast of Louisiana, the rig has been gushing about 42,000 gallons of oil per day into the water, from 5,000 feet - nearly a mile - below the surface, according to the Associated Press.

Seafood Prices Expected to Spike

As a result of the oil spill, the U.S. seafood industry could be decimated as crabs, shrimp and fish have just begun spawning. Seafood from the Gulf Coast region makes up 80% of America’s domestic and wild seafood supply, according to SeafoodSource.com, an industry Web site.

The state of Louisiana alone is the biggest seafood-producing state on the U.S. mainland, bringing in about $1.8 billion a year from the fruits of the sea, according to CNN.

Crabs from Louisiana, Alabama and Texas; red and black grouper from Madeira Beach, Fla., as well as shrimp, oysters and other fish caught along the Gulf Coast could suffer devastating damage as a result of the oil spill, and according to Business Week, the impact on wildlife is nearing that of the Exxon Valdez spill on the shores of Alaska in 1989.

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Small Business to Suffer

Bluefin tuna, grouper and snapper are some of the most lucrative species of fish to the U.S., and they’re all at risk, especially because fish larva spawned in the Gulf can be especially harmed by the spilled oil, according to MarketWatch.

As a result, local seafood industries could be decimated.

"My family has been in the business for 100 years in the Ycloskey area, and the impact, we don't know... We don't know if the industry can handle an impact as big as this," Brad Robin, a local seafood business owner, told Fox 8 Live in Chalmette, La.

In Gulfport, Miss., Half Shell Oyster House serves more than 10,000 oysters a week, but local oyster beds could be shut down, making them more expensive for restaurants and restaurant-goers. It’s even possible that area restaurants won’t be able to have seafood on their menus at all, according to a local ABC affiliate.

In Madeira, Fla., Fishbusters Seafood’s grouper sales are part of a $27-million-per-year industry that relies on boats and boat gear. Their business could be ruined by the oil, according to 10Connects.com in Tampa Bay.

And beyond just the seafood industry, tourism on the coast could take a hit, likely adding to the economic hardship experienced in the area after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Beach tourism in Florida alone is responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs and contributes tens of billions of dollars in revenue to the state, according to MarketWatch.

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Cleanup Efforts Underway

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist have both declared a state of emergency and the Coast Guard has been deployed to fight the spill.

About 217,000 feet of boom has already been put in place to protect the shoreline from spilled oil, and cleanup crews are focusing on five locations including Venice, La.; Pascagoula and Biloxi, Miss.; Mobile, Ala.; and Pensacola, Fla., according to Energy Business Review.

Environmental Effects

As cleanup efforts get underway, conservationists are increasingly concerned that oil could remain in the soil and sediment on the shoreline for years, leading to still more damage to areas already hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"If this stuff settles to the bottom on our reefs, it could be many, many, many years before we can clean it up. It could be like the Valdez in Alaska and last for twenty, thirty years,” said Mayor Stan Wright of Bayou La Batre, Ala., to WKRG News.

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