With No End in Sight, Spill Leaves Gulf in Despair

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WASHINGTON -- The Gulf oil spill has already become the worst environmental disaster America has ever seen, and now experts say it could continue until Christmas.

The spill has already crippled Gulf coast businesses during what should be the beginning of the tourism season.

Needed: Stress Management

Chris Holdren's commercial fishing boat is named Stress Management, something he and so many residents along the Gulf of Mexico desperately need.

"I mean there's absolutely nothing we can do," Holdren said.

The thick, oily goo that has plagued the marshlands and beaches of Louisiana for weeks is now hovering just miles off the coast of Florida, threatening the Sunshine State's white beaches that generate millions of dollars for the tourism industry.

"We're going to take pictures because we may not see it this pretty for a while," tourist Peter Burke said.

So far, British Petroleum's efforts to cap the well have failed. Now the worst case scenario is that oil will continue spewing into the ocean until the end of this year - possibly even into next year.

Business owners who depend on tourism don't know what they are going to do.

"Are we going be out of business just this summer? Is it going to take longer than one year? I mean, they haven't even stopped it yet," Florida business owner Les Burke.

Nearly 90,000 square miles of gulf fisheries have closed.

"I have three boats. It's a lot of investment. They're worthless right now," fisherman Vlaho Miehovich said.

The Spill's Far-Reaching Effects

Along with the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, the spill has also affected the bottom lines of restaurants across the country.

"Half of the shrimp of America come from here, almost half of the oysters come from here," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "You know this is a very, very important part of our food supply. We are losing our seafood basket as we lose the health of the Gulf of Mexico."

Some scientists fear the spill has become so severe it may alter the chemistry of the infected waters.

More than two decades have passed since the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Alaska's Prince William Sound still hasn't fully recovered.

"Of the 20 species that they studied, 10 recovered fully. Twenty have not recovered fully, they're still in stages of recovery. That's after 20 years," Schweiger said.

Meanwhile, BP continues drilling a relief well that should be completed by early August. However, that progress could be set back by an active Atlantic hurricane season.

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Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.