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NOAA Closes Gulf Spill Area To Fishing

FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO –Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was first to start closing down the Gulf seafood industry when he put select fishing areas and oyster harvesting beds off limits to both recreational and commercial takings last Friday in response to the BP oil spill.

On Sunday, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke followed the Governor with an announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was restricting fishing in all Gulf of Mexico waters surrounding the growing oil slick.

Seafood safety concerns brought the closure of fishing in Louisiana’s Zone 1, excluding the coastal boundaries of Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurapas.  It also brought the closures of shellfish area 2 through 7 east of the Mississippi.

On Sunday–against a background of dark skies, strong winds, and high waves—the federal government stepped in to immediately make the entire Gulf from Louisiana state waters near New Orleans to Pensacola Bay to close down fishing for at least the next ten days.

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, in a statement said the agency was attempting to balance “economic and health concerns” and limited the closure area to Gulf waters affected by the oil.

“The precautionary closure of the federal waters off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and part of Florida is a necessary action to insure the citizens of the United States and abroad that our seafood will maintain the highest level of quality we expect from the Gulf of Mexico, said Harlon Pearce.  “As chairman of  the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, I applaud Dr. Lubchenco’s decision to insure everyone that all seafood in the Gulf is of the highest quality and is safe to eat.”

“We Support NOAA’s precautionary closure of the affected area so that the American consumer has confidence that the seafood they eat is safe,” added Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Board.   “It is also very important to underscore the fact that this closure is only the affected area of the Gulf of Mexico, not the entire Gulf.  The state waters of Louisiana West of the Mississippi River are still open and the seafood coming from that area is safe.  That portion of waters represents about 77% of Louisiana seafood production of a 2.4 billion dollar economic impact to the state.”

“We stand with America’s fishermen, their families and businesses in impacted coastal communities during this very challenging time,” Locke said.

Lubchenco said there was no health risk from seafood currently in the market.

State and federal officials said the closures were to make sure oil-tainted fish; shrimp and crab are not caught and consumed.

shrimping-boats-featured.jpgLong lists of fish caught in the Gulf are now off-limits due to the federal restrictions.  Included are: Amberjacks, Blue Runner, Bluefish, Cobia, Crevalle Jack, Croaker, Dolphinfish, Black Drum, Red Drum, Flounders, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper, Kingfishes, Ladyfish, King Macherel, Spanish Mackerel, Pigfish, Pinfish, Florida Pompano, Red Porgy, Sailfish, Sand and Silver Seatrouts, Spotted Seatrout, Shark, Sheepshead, Silver Perch, Gray Snapper, Lane Snapper, Red Snapper, Vermillion Snapper, Atlantic Spadefish, Spot, Tarpon, Tomtate, Gray Triggerfish, Tripletail, Black and Yellowfin Tuna, Little Tunny, and Wahoo.

While all those fish may be out there, most of the Gulf’s fishing boats were Sunday night waiting for the weather to clear so they can continue fighting the oil slick before more it moves toward the beaches.  The NOAA oil trajectory map is available on the agency’s Website.

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