The world's worst oil spill has killed the Persian Gulf's $40 million-a-year shrimp industry, the head of a major gulf fishing company said Tuesday.

"The gulf is out. Bye-bye, gulf," Nasser O. Alsaleh, general manager of Saudi Fisheries Co., told reporters at his company's sprawling fishing complex in the port city of Dammam.He said most shrimping operations were suspended in November because of the U.S.-led embargo on trade with Iraq, and that the slick will prevent the shrimp industry from rebounding after the Persian Gulf War. He said the industry was unlikely to recover for a decade.

The spill, which began two weeks ago when Iraq allegedly began pumping Kuwaiti crude into the northern gulf, is expected to cause unprecedented ecological damage to the waterway.

Speeded by early spring winds, the slick was edging southward along the Saudi Arabian coast today. The bulk of the crude is 17 to 20 miles north of Jubail, site of the world's largest desalination plant.

Japan has sent a 3-mile-long "fence" to help protect the coast. Eight nations and many salvage firms have offered ships, booms, skimmers, deflectors, filters and expertise to combat the spill.

Gulf salvage experts did not discount the probability that the slick was backfiring against Iraq by spoiling desalination plants in occupied Kuwait as well. The plants provide water for Iraqi troops.

One of Kuwait's leading environmentalists, Badriya al-Awadi, has said she believes all six of her country's desalination plants were affected by the slick or the military operations.

Alsaleh said the slick has decimated the fishing industry because of damage to breeding grounds. He said thousands of fishermen, most of them foreigners, have lost their jobs.

Alsaleh said his company will lose $8 million this year because of the spill. Shrimp is the main catch in the gulf but Alsaleh said there is also commercial fishing.