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Feds Declare Gulf Fisheries Disaster

Sample test results of oysters and water will be on the agenda today when the Louisiana Oyster Task Force meets in New Orleans.  It comes a day after the federal government reportedly issued a fisheries disaster declaration for three Gulf states, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Louisiana officials and the industry are trying to wrap their heads around specific findings that can now be made about oyster mortalities caused by the BP oil spill.

The meeting comes as the State of Louisiana was forced over the weekend to close more of its productive state waters to more oyster harvesting because oil is now coming ashore on some of its beaches and coastal wetlands.

Federal waters closed to fishing–but no longer to transit–have remained unchanged since May 21.  All commercial and recreational fishing is prohibited in the closed area.

Confirmed reports Sunday of oil further west along the Louisiana coast forced the closure of more oyster harvest areas.

Louisiana closed additional oyster harvesting bed areas west of the Mississippi River, including areas 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22 and 23 as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  These closures took effect May 23 (see map, above).

Areas 9, 10 and 11 are in Plaquemines Parish; Area 12 is in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes. Areas 14 and 15 are in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes; areas 17, 19, 21, 22 and 23 are in Terrebonne Parish.

Louisiana officials are working with local and federal agencies to monitor the oil plume that continues to grow off of the Louisiana coastline for its potential impacts on oyster harvesting areas. Meanwhile, employees with the state Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have continued regular testing of 8 million acres of coastal waters along the Louisiana shoreline.

In addition, state scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds to monitor the presence of oil, called hydrocarbon testing. Additional testing is also being conducted in unaffected oyster beds.

Those tests will create a baseline, which will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears in order to reopen beds, officials say.  They say oysters being harvested in open areas are considered safe.

Areas 8, 13 and 28 remain closed.

Closures will remain in effect until officials have determined that environmental conditions are within the requirements specified by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

The public is encouraged to call a toll-free hotline, 1-800-256-2775, to report the presence of oil or oil sheen.

Meanwhile, the federal closure area now represents just fewer than 20 percent of the U.S. economic zone in the Gulf.  The closed area totals 48,005 square miles.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries department continues to point out that all other federal waters in the Gulf remain open to both commercial and recreational fishing.

Since the unexplained explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform on April 20, which killed 11 workers, concern has grown about the future of the Gulf seafood industry.  In 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 1.27 million pounds of finfish and shellfish were harvested in the Gulf.

With BP’s attempts to shut the spill off all ending in failure to date, there is fear about the future of Gulf seafood including its large catches of red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) and shrimp.

The popular brown shrimp season typically begins in June and runs through October.

Recreational fishing season for red snapper opens in Mississippi territorial waters on June 1, 2010, at 12:01 a.m. and closes July 24, 2010, at 12:01 a.m.

This coincides with the opening and closing of red snapper season in open federal waters.  Current Mississippi state regulations for red snapper are limited to fish16 inches and larger, and to two-fish.

Florida’s Apalachicola Bay was opened to oyster harvesting last Friday, 11 days early to help stem demand for oysters not available in other Gulf waters.

Image:  Courtesy Emergency.Louisiana.Gov

© Food Safety News
  • med research

    i understand that as a society, we our poorly educated. but, shouldn’t logic prevail in dangerous situations? i guess not. my advice to the people of the Gulf coast is to STAY THE HELL OUT OF THE WATER. as i drive the coastal regions, i am floored to see people on the beach, and in the water. people fishing off piers. ignorance will kill you. do you not understand how toxic the Gulf has become? here in Perdido Key, Fl, the water looks mighty inviting, but i know whats in it. the mantra here is ” come to our beautiful beaches”, FL is wasting millions of tax dollars on ads trying to lure vacationers. i say STAY AWAY. the disperants BP is using [plus toxic oil by-products] will make you sick, or worse. you will never hear of people sickened by this. do you think an American doctor will tell you that your liver is shutting down do to the ingestion of BENZENE?[a by-product of oil] if you have lived in the U.S. you already know that answer……

  • http://www.edf.org/edfish Val EDF

    Environmental Defense Fund and Gulf of Mexico fishermen’s groups sent a letter to Congress and the President outlining several steps to help mitigate the devastating ecological and economic impacts of the spill. In addition to stopping the spill, they want the safest chemicals used, a rigorous clean up and testing for seafood safety, as well as assistance for the fishing communities impacted. Read the letter at http://blogs.edf.org/edfish/2010/05/24/gulf-fishermen-edf-request-100-million-to-help-fishing-communities-recover-from-oil-spill/

  • med research

    first of all, this is no oil spill. it is a oil flow. one can not ‘clean’ an oil flow. all clean-up efforts are ludicrous at this point. waste of time, effort, and money. it is nothing more than a way to lull the American people into a sense of false security that something is being done in the Gulf. when this first happened, Holland and Iran [original owners of this oil co.] were the first to offer help. WITH IRAN STATING THEY COULD STOP THE FLOW! THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT SENT HOLLAND BACK, AND NEVER RESPONDED TO IRAN! this is a BLATANT DISREGARD FOR PEOPLE, ANIMALS, AND NATURE! why, this could affect the world, not just us. and what the hell is a safe chemical? now there’s an oxymoron if i ever heard one. pour MORE chemicals into a dying body of water? how about some form of oil munching bacteria? let’s just think out-of-the-box for one minute here, ok? no one, and no amount of “letters” is going to accomplish anything. no amount of big words or inactions either. so you keep sending your notes to the President, maybe he will get them after his vacation…..

  • Bill Coles

    They didn’t tell the people how many died from the Exxon Valdez clean up. The dispersants are the problem. They dumped that crap in the water so you coyldn’t clean up the oil and to hide it. Now it’s on the bottom and how you going to clean that up? Any one involved in the clean up or who went in the water will be dead soon.
    So how much does anyone think will be the total loss in the gulf over just a one year period? I bet the loss will be 5 billion with seafood and tourism. But not one of the people responsible has been shot. No planes have been shot out of the sky who are probably still spraying crap. Now even the oysters no matter where they are will probably make you ill.
    When we had all those forest fires the Russians had planes that could dump 7,000 gallons of water and put out the fire in a day. They only wanted fuel, but our government said no.
    I think they didn’t want the Russians to look like the good guys.
    No doubt this oil spill could have been cleaned up if they didn’t spray those dispersants. Unless I’m wrong I thought oil rises to the top. Then you skim it off.