Every time BP fails to close its gushing oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the area topside that is closed to fishing continues to expand.
At 5 p.m. local time yesterday, commercial and recreational fishing including catch and release was prohibited in an area that has grown to include 61,854 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico.
The last closed area modification was May 25, when 60,683 square miles were closed to fishing, or roughly 25 percent of federal waters of the Gulf.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) extended the northern boundary of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico up to the Mississippi federal-state water line and portions of the Alabama federal-state water line–this federal closure does not apply to any state waters.
Closing fishing in these areas is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers, NOAA said.
A majority–74 percent–of federal waters in the Gulf remains open to commercial and recreational fishing, according to NOAA.
The closure area, which NOAA can change daily under emergency regulations, has grown to be about five times larger than when it was first imposed after the April 20 BP oil spill, now the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
NOAA Fisheries says modeling and mapping the actual and projected spill area “is not an exact science.” Fishermen are urged not to fish in open area they find oil or oil sheens are present.
Going into the Memorial Day Weekend, Louisiana made adjustments for its state waters, including portions of Barataria Basin in Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.
The portion of state inside waters north of the inside/outside shrimp line and south of the Mississippi River from the southern shoreline of Red Pass at 89 degrees 28 minutes 13.4 seconds north latitude westward to the western shoreline of the Empire Canal; thence north along the western shoreline of the Empire Canal to 29 degrees 20 minutes 00 seconds north latitude; thence west along 29 degrees 20 minutes 00 seconds north latitude to the western shoreline of Grand Bayou; thence north along the western shoreline of Grand Bayou.
This area was part of a precautionary closure. To date no oil has been confirmed in this area.
That portion of state inside waters north of 29 degrees 30 minutes 00 seconds north latitude and south of 29 degrees 35 minutes 00 seconds north latitude from 89 degrees 52 minutes west longitude near the western shoreline of Bay Batiste westward to 90 degrees 14 minutes 00 seconds west longitude near the western shoreline of Little Lake.
This closure is due to confirmed reports of oil.
NOAA has extended the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to match the Louisiana state waters closure west of the current boundaries, and to incorporate an area reportedly with oil in the southwest. Closing fishing in these areas is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.
Seafood coming from the open areas of the Gulf should be safe to eat, according to both state and federal agencies.
An oil spill, growing by 12,000 to 25,000 barrels per day, adds a new dimension to the Gulf’s annual hurricane season, which begins today.
Scientists, including those at NOAA, are making predictions about what might happen if a major storm moves across the Gulf while the oil spill continues. A hurricane would break up the oil, but might also drive it further into critical coastlines.
Map: Fishery Closure Boundary as of 6pm Eastern Time 31 May 2010. Credit: NOAA