The Gulf Coast braced for a greasy and unwelcome tide Thursday as the region's largest oil spill in decades threatened the marshlands and beaches at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
"This Saturday is the first date we can go catch live bait," said Glenn Sanchez, who runs a marina in Hopedale, Louisiana. "If this was to happen, this could just devastate the whole of Louisiana."
Hopedale is in what Sanchez calls the "big toe" of Louisiana, about 35 miles southeast of New Orleans.
It's where dry land gives way to a patchwork of marshes, lagoons and canals that drain into Chandeleur Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. The estuaries are rich in crab, oysters and shrimp, and Breton Sound Marina is home to a variety of commercial and sport-fishing vessels that buy bait from Sanchez.
But the spill that began last week when the Deepwater Horizon drill rig blew up and sank has cast a new shadow on a region already under heavy environmental pressure.