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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

And Steve, a lot has been happening here while you were sending us stories from Pakistan. But one thing hasn't changed. You'll recognize it. Oil is still pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, although BP is about to try again to stop an oil spill - or actually to slow it down.

INSKEEP: Pretty much the same headline that we could have given the day that I left several weeks ago. Now, even if this latest effort works it will only count as an interim step. The spill may not be capped entirely, we're told, until August. That's when the company hopes to finish two relief wells, new drilling meant to cut off the flow of oil to the blowout.

MONTAGNE: In a moment, we'll hear how this spill is likely to affect BP. We start on the coast of Louisiana with NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN: The prospect of waiting two more months for the well to be capped has residents and fishermen who live, work and play in the Gulf, fuming.

Sport fisherman Rob Defraites says if oil continues to spill until August, there won't be any fish or birds left. He's come down from New Orleans to fish in the waters off the southernmost tip of Louisiana in Venice, where the sign at the local marina says: Best Fishing In The World.

Mr. ROB DEFRAITES (Sport Fisherman): You know, because I've been doing this all my life. I can't imagine, in my mind, not being able to jump in my truck, tow my boat down the road, go fish for an afternoon or a morning somewhere. I just can't imagine not being able to do it.

(Soundbite of an electric knife)

KAHN: Defraites' friend uses an electric knife to clean their day's catch: redfish, flounder and a couple dozen speckled trout, which he washes off with a small hose.

(Soundbite of water)

KAHN: Some of the waters in the southeastern tip of Louisiana are still open to fishing. However, more than a quarter of federal fishing areas have been closed.

According to government estimates, anywhere from 20 to 43 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf. And officials say BP's latest fix, to cut the leaking riser pipe, may in the short term cause 20 percent more oil to gush out of the well until a cap is put in place. And even if the cap is attached properly, some oil will still leak out while BP tries to collect the flow and bring it to the surface.

Jane Lyder, a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior, says exactly how to cap the well isn't clear yet.

Ms. JANE LYDER (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of the Interior): We just got to keep fighting it, you know. We're looking at this like a war - we just have to keep fighting it.

KAHN: Lyder took a boat tour of the inlets and marshes around Venice Monday, and says she found at least one ray of hope.

Ms. LYDER: We haven't seen a large amount of wildlife death yet. This is a warm environment, so unlike in Exxon Valdez in Alaska, birds died of exposure very quickly because they couldn't keep themselves warm.

KAHN: But she also said she saw fish feeding on the oil, which will ultimately be eaten by birds and sicken them. Then, too, there's all the oil which has already covered hundreds of birds. Fifty-three have been brought to this large warehouse near Venice, where workers try and clean the oily birds.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Unidentified Woman: All right. Are we ready? One, two, three, up.

KAHN: Three workers, covered with yellow rubber aprons and plastic gloves up to their elbows, hold on to a brown pelican covered in oil. In a special tub, they take nearly a half-hour to clean the huge bird, using Dawn dish soap and small squares of white towels, scrubbing its body. They delicately clean around the pelican's face and beak with children's toothbrushes.

Jay Holcomb with the International Bird Rescue Research Center says he fears he will be cleaning birds for several more months.

Dr. JAY HOLCOMB (Executive Director, International Bird Rescue): As long as the birds are still at risk, I think the whole summer - God help us - we'll be here.

KAHN: And that's only if the well is truly shut off by August.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Buras, Louisiana.

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