From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published June 3, 2010 03:38 PM

The Spreading No Fishing Zone in the Gulf Of Mexico

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has expanded some boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to capture portions of the slick moving beyond the current boundaries — the most significant expansion includes an area off southwest Florida that covers waters just to the west of the Dry Tortugas. Additionally, the agency reopened a 2,637 square mile area of the western most boundary south of Louisiana. Oil was projected to be in this area, but was never actually observed there.

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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.

The closed area now represents 88,502 square miles, which is approximately 37 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than 63 percent of Gulf federal waters available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 6:00 p.m. EDT on June 2.  The last closed area modification was June 1, when 75,920 square miles were closed to fishing, or roughly 31 percent of federal waters of the Gulf..   Back on May 19th, the closed no fishing area was 19% of the Gulf or about 46,000 square miles. In two weeks the no fishing area has expanded by about a factor of 2!

According to NOAA, there are approximately 5.7 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 25 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than one billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2008.

This extension of the federal fishing closed area due to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill coincides with the June 1 opening of the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season, and will affect some areas targeted by charter boat captains and private anglers. Red snapper is one of the most important recreational and commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and has been for over a century, particularly in the Florida Panhandle. In Florida, red snapper are primarily caught by recreational anglers fishing from charter boats. However, there is a substantial commercial fishery.

The spread of the no fishing area can only be expected to continue until the leaking oil is capped. Even with a successful seal, the no fishing area may continue to spread but at least there is a potential end in sight.

For further information: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100602_closure.html


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