‘Perception’ of oil spill hurting Gulf states

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The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has not affected the majority of the region's beaches, but is still keeping tourists away, according to a recent report.

Almost all beach closings from the spill have been clustered in three areas of Louisiana, according to the 20th annual report on water quality at U.S. beaches by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the oil, as much as 184 million gallons since the well ruptured April 20, is worrying tourists and prompting health advisories throughout the Gulf, USA Today reports.

Closings or advisories have been issued for 49 of 253 monitored beach sites in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, the report says. Taken together, they cover 1,972 days so far this year; similar ones last year covered 237 days.

"We have not had any oil, any tar balls, anything within hundreds of miles of our beaches," D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater tourism authority, told the newspaper. "But perception is the problem."

Several conventions and an international volleyball tournament scheduled for the fall have been canceled because of fears that the area's beaches will be polluted by then, Minich said. "They're concerned about buying non-refundable airline tickets into a place where there might be a problem in the fall."

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