The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is re-opening 4,213 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters to royal red shrimping, a deep-water fish that has been prohibited in the area since November when a shrimper found tar balls in his net.
NOAA said that while the tar balls could not be conclusively linked to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, the temporary ban was put in place as a precautionary measure. “Further fish and shrimp sampling and testing from the area showed no oil or dispersant contamination,” according to NOAA.
The decision to reopen a substantial portion of federal waters in the Gulf to royal red shrimping was made after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to NOAA. It follows previous decisions to allow all commercial and recreational fishing to resume in the same federal waters.
“Extensive testing of royal red shrimp and other fish from this area revealed they are safe to eat,” said Roy Crabtree, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast region. “Seafood safety and consumer confidence remain a priority for NOAA, and we will continue monitoring Gulf seafood for as long as necessary to ensure its integrity.”
NOAA said the agency is continuing its ramped up seafood sampling strategy, which was put in place in concert with FDA and local state health and wildlife agencies.
NOAA said all fish tested by the agencies demonstrates that Gulf seafood is safe for human consumption.
“Results from the sensory analysis found no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results from the chemical analysis for oil-related compounds and dispersants were well below the levels of concern,” said the agency in a statement Wednesday.
The now re-opened waters were initially closed to all commercial and recreational fishing last summer in the wake of the devastating oil spill, but were reopened to all fishing in mid-November after FDA and NOAA cleared hundreds of seafood specimens sampled from the area waters. Royal red shimp were among the fish tested and each sample passed both sensory and chemical testing, according to a NOAA release.
Over 1,000 square miles immediately surrounding the wellhead that spewed over 200 million gallons of crude oil into Gulf Waters is still closed to all fishing.