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La. expects ‘massive’ wildlife habitat damage

Biologists expect to find major destruction when they take their first close-up look at Hurricane Katrina’s impact on wildlife habitats and Louisiana’s vital fishing industry, the state’s top conservation official said Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

Biologists expect to find major destruction when they take their first close-up look at Hurricane Katrina’s impact on wildlife habitats and Louisiana’s vital fishing industry, the state’s top conservation official said Thursday.

Dwight Landreneau, Louisiana’s secretary for the department of wildlife and fisheries, said until now biologists had been part of search and rescue efforts but would soon begin damage assessments to coastal areas, marshes and forests that surround New Orleans.

“We’re going to see some massive destruction of the habitat in the coastal area when it deals with wildlife and with the fisheries,” Landreneau told Reuters.

“With everything that is involved in dealing with the seafood industries, we’re going to have some very high numbers,” he said.

Louisiana provides as much as 40 percent of all seafood enjoyed in the United States, especially oysters and shrimp.

“We will do what we need to do to help those families that are involved in the seafood industry and also those businesses that are involved in recreational aspects,” Landreneau told an earlier news briefing.

Louisiana also is home to cypress and tupelo swamps that cover hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal Louisiana and inhabited by migratory birds, alligators and snakes.

Landreneau said the department’s fisheries division will focus on evaluating hurricane damage to coastal and inland waterways.

Surveys also will be conducted in 12 wildlife management areas and the storm’s impact on waterfowl and even smaller species like squirrel and rabbits.

Landreneau said he was concerned about the impact on fish and wildlife from the contaminated floodwaters being pumped out of New Orleans, raising the specter of an environmental disaster.

“Any type of contaminant that goes into the Gulf area is a concern because you’re dealing with filter feeders like oysters, which processes this through their system,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some very close evaluation of that, also with shrimp and finfish,” he said.