BATON ROUGE, LA — A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion and BP oil spill, the biggest thing in the environment impacting anglers is the wind.
Louisiana’s coastal waterways and inland bays are getting the same high winds that have buffeted as many as 20 states. As problems go, it is a better one to have than a 4.9 million barrel oil spill. Especially when no tornados have hit this far south.
Going into this weekend, the state of Louisiana re-opened recreational and commercial fishing in portions of the state inside and outside waters within the Barataria Basin, one of the areas that had been closed because of last year’s BP oil spill.
The areas were opened previously only to recreational and charter boat fishing.
As for the winds, anglers report “choppy to rough” conditions on lakes and inland bays and “downright rough offshore seas,” according to Joe Macaluso, outdoor writer for the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 99.4 percent of the state’s waters are now open to commercial and recreational fishing. LDWF works with both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ensure that seafoods from newly opened areas are safe to eat.
“By working so closely with our state and federal partners we can continue to ensure consumers of Louisiana seafood that it is safe,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “Today we are one step closer to resuming normal fishing practices.”
Secretary Barham ordered this opening following the completion of comprehensive testing, after which the FDA advised that shrimp, crab and finfish tissue samples tested from these previously closed areas are safe for consumption.
Recreational and commercial fishing reopens immediately in time for the weekend in certain portions of state inside waters adjacent to Grand Terre Island, Four Bayou Pass and the Barataria Waterway.
This reopening does not include the harvest of species closed by season, including shrimp and certain finfish.
Furthermore, this opening does not include the commercial harvest of oysters, as this activity is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. LDHH has kept oyster areas 8 and two parts of 12 closed.
Long-term, Louisiana has a $457 million food safety plan submitted last year to BP for funding. The state is said to currently be negotiating for a five-year, $173 million plan.
While currently relying on FDA/NOAA testing, Louisiana wants to implement a certification plan that would give consumers an extra degree of confidence about the safety of the seafood coming from state waters
The state will use three criteria to determine the success of the initial five years of work:
— Tissue sample results show no indicators that oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is present.
— Landings of Louisiana’s major species of seafood (shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish) are at or
above pre-spill levels.
— Louisiana’s markets are restored and the overall value of our seafood is at or above pre-spill amounts.
The state was forced to close vast amounts of waters to both recreational and commercial fishing due to the potential effects of the BP oil spill located in an area called the Mississippi Canyon.
The three segments to the proposed Seafood Safety Plan are:
— Seafood Safety Testing, Monitoring and Evaluation
Samples collected for analyses under the purview of this plan are intended to represent commercially and recreationally harvested species that are landed in Louisiana for the purposes of human health risk assessment and fisheries closure/openings.
— Louisiana Seafood Safety Public Education (Education and Marketing Component)
The state produces one-third of the seafood consumed in the U.S. and the $3 billion seafood industry is a major economic engine as well as a significant draw for tourists both domestic and international.
The public perception of the safety of the state’s seafood has been damaged by the BP oil spill.
The plan outlines an extensive effort to understand consumer behavior and educate the public on the safety and quality of Louisiana seafood, and monitor the effectiveness of the campaign for the duration.
— Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program
Both Louisiana seafood harvesters and processors would be able to certify their products based on quality control and food safety standards.