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Oil spill leaves Gulf sharks with an uncertain future

OCEAN SPRINGS — For now, the oldest creature that swims the fertile waters of the Mississippi Sound is hearty and healthy.

That's good news considering the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has entered day 52.

But what does the future hold for the ever-intimidating shark, which has graced the waters of the world for more than 350 million years?

"At this point, we do not know what the impact will be," Dr. Eric Hoffmayer of the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs said. "The adults, of most of the species we have here, likely have been exposed to some part of the oil because we find some species 20 to 50 miles offshore.

"Right now, they are pupping (new born) in the Mississippi Sound, a nursery for sharks. Whatever the mother is exposed to, the pups have been exposed to as well. The animals are here."

During late March and early April, sharks began migrating toward the Mississippi Sound to reproduce and seek shelter for their young within the shallow waters of the Mississippi Sound.

During a normal year, sharks enter the Mississippi Sound in late March and early April.

But due to a cold winter and a cool spring, the arrival was delayed until mid to late April.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 occurred at the beginning of the migration period.

Sharks will retreat in mid-fall and could have its biggest impact on the species during this time frame.

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