National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expanded the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico again this week.  The new area includes portions of Louisiana’s federal-state waterline which is located in the northwestern boundary where the oil slick is slowly creeping.  The new westward boundary includes Holly Beach, LA, and is approximately 17 statute miles from the Louisiana-Texas border.

BP_OilSpill_FisheryClosureMap_071310-1.jpgAdditionally, NOAA reopened almost 174 square miles of previously closed fishing area south of Louisiana as the area was not impacted nor projected to be impacted by the oil spill.

Closing the areas to fishing is a precautionary measure on NOAA’s part to to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.  The federal closure does not apply to any state waters.

As of July 13, the closed area encompasses 83,927 square miles, which represents 35 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal waters.  Accordingly, more than 65 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf are still available for fishing.  Closures went into effect at 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 13.

The last scheduled closed area modification was on July 12, when 84,101 square miles were closed to fishing in the Gulf.

According to NOAA, both 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.  The organization 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.  

Both NOAA and the FDA are currently working to implement a broad-scaled seafood sampling plan which includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside and market-based sampling.

Image:  Fishery Closure Boundary as of July 13, 2010. Closure area may be updated daily as necessary. Credit: NOAA