Handout photo provided by Greenpeace on April 30, 2010 shows birds flying over the oil on the waters near Breton Sound Island, southern most tip of the Chandeleur Islands in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Louisiana, where oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continued to spread. Photograph by: Sean Gardner, AFP / Getty Images

By Justin Nobel, Special to Nunatsiaq News
June 24, 2010 2:18 PM

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Carey O'Neil is heartbroken as he steers his boat through a slick of oil near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

"This is one of our best shrimping spots," the Louisiana shrimper says, surveying the damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "All these guys are going to be out of business."

Nunavut hunters may relate to shrimpers like O'Neil, who face losing their livelihoods as oil continues to coat the Gulf of Mexico. But Arctic hunters will soon have a more pressing reason to consider the spill — the Arctic's snow geese will soon head right for it.

Peter Jaaka, for one, is worried.

"Our snow geese are in Nunavut right now making eggs and after that they will go back southbound and be affected for sure," says Jaaka.

Beginning in late August, three to six million geese will migrate from breeding grounds in the North to the Gulf.

Many will settle in fields along the way, but nearly half a million will head for the coast, and 200,000 of those will winter in marshes right at the mouth of the Mississippi, where oil has hit hard.

And geese are not the only Arctic birds that may be affected — loons, green wing teal, white fronted geese, dabbling ducks and the American widgeon all migrate to the Gulf. Come fall, sand pipers, sanderlings, ruddy turnstones and long and short billed dowitchers will head for Louisiana beaches like Grand Isle, which has repeatedly been smothered with oil. …

"If we get storms coming in and big tides, it could coat the entire marsh with oil, right where these geese spend a lot of their time," says Paul Link, a waterfowl expert with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. …

Gulf oil spill a threat to Arctic birds: WWF

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