Going into last weekend federal waters off the coast of Louisiana were re-opened to commercial and recreational fishing.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service removed 4,281 square miles of federal waters from the fish closure area of the Gulf of Mexico. The area that remains closed to fishing measures 48,114 square miles, an area that covers about 20 percent of the U.S. economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since the BP oil spill was capped in mid-July, the fish closure area in the Gulf has been reduced by about half, but still covers an area equal to the size of the State of Mississippi.
Within the closed area, all commercial and recreational fishing including catch and release is prohibited. Federal waters off the coast of Florida’s panhandle have been re-opened to fin fishing, but remain closed to other species including shrimp.
In its Southeast Fishery Bulletin, Marine Fisheries said there’d been no oil in the re-opened area since July 30, and only in “scattered light sheens” since July 18. NOAA said the re-opened area has a low risk for exposure to oil in the future.
Marine Fisheries collected 41 shrimp and finfish samples from the area, including snapper and menhaden. Sensory testing showed no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors and chemical tests showed no “levels of concern.”
NOAA testing is done in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The area that remains closed has the potential of producing seafood that is tainted and thereby poses a threat to human health.
Marine Fisheries continues to urge fishermen not to fish in any area where oil or oil sheens are present, even if those areas are open to fishing.
Aug. 27 marks the third time since the BP oil spill was brought under control that the area of the Gulf closed to fishing has been reduced. The earlier reductions came on July 22 and Aug. 10.
Most state-controlled coastal waters are again open to fishing. The one exception is an area of Chandeleur Sound in Louisiana.
Areas of the Gulf were closed to fishing shortly after the April 20 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform, which killed 11 men.