NOAA has opened more than 8,000 square miles of previously closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico, because the agency has not observed oil in the area. The most significant opening is an area due south of Mississippi which was closed Monday, June 21.
Additionally, some smaller areas were opened off the Louisiana and central Florida coasts.
These areas were initially closed as a precaution because oil was projected to be within those areas over the next few days. However, the review of satellite imagery, radar and aerial data indicated that oil had not moved into these areas.
The federal closed area does not apply to any state waters. Closing fishing in this area is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.
The closed area now represents 78,597 square miles, which is approximately 32.5 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than two-thirds of Gulf federal waters available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 6 p.m. EDT. Details can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/. The last closed area modification was June 21, when 86,985 square miles were closed to fishing, or roughly 36 percent of federal waters of the Gulf.
Federal and state governments have systems in place to test and monitor seafood safety, prohibit harvesting from affected areas and keep oiled products out of the marketplace. NOAA continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the states to ensure seafood safety, by closing fishing areas where tainted seafood could potentially be caught, and assessing whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to human health. NOAA and FDA are implementing a broad-scaled seafood sampling plan. The plan includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as market-based sampling.
According to NOAA, there are approximately 5.7 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 25 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than 1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2008.
Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.
NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the spill and will re-open closed areas as appropriate. NOAA will also re-evaluate the closure areas as new information that would change the boundaries of these closed areas becomes available.
For more information: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/