From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published May 10, 2010 06:54 AM

NOAA Expands Commercial and Recreational Fishing Closure in Gulf of Mexico

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continues to monitor water conditions in the part of the Gulf of Mexico that is being impacted by the huge oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon sinking. NOAA has recently modified and expanded the boundaries of the closed fishing area to better reflect the current location of the BP oil spill, and is extending the fishing restriction until May 17.

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The closed area now represents slightly less than 4.5 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The original closure boundaries, which took effect last Sunday, encompassed less than three percent. This leaves many areas that are still available for fishing. The vast majority of Gulf waters has not been affected by the oil spill and continues to support productive fisheries and tourism activities.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and her staff will continue to meet with fishermen in the oil-affected area to listen to their concerns and share with them what NOAA scientists have learned so far about how the oil might be affecting their potential seafood catch.

"NOAA scientists are on the ground in the area of the oil spill taking water and seafood samples in an effort to ensure the safety of the seafood and fishing activities." Lubchenco said.

The federal and state governments have strong systems in place to test and monitor seafood safety and to prohibit harvesting from affected areas and keep oiled products out of the marketplace. NOAA Fisheries continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the states to ensure seafood safety, by assessing whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to human health. 

According to NOAA, there are 3.2 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 24 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.

The map represents the federal fishery closure due to the BP oil spill in relation to the whole Gulf of Mexico.

  • The area closure covers about 10,807 square miles (27,989 square kilometers) of the north-central Gulf of Mexico, between the southwest pass of Louisiana and the eastern edge of Pensacola Bay, Florida.
  • The total area of the closure covers less than 4.5% of federal waters in the Gulf.
  • The vast majority of federal waters remain open to recreational and commercial fishing.
  • All Gulf states have fishing areas that have not been affected by the spill.
  • Recreational fishing opportunities continue to be available at ports from Texas to Florida.
  • Productive fishing grounds for popular species, like grouper and snapper, are still open.
  • Consumers can expect a continued supply of Gulf seafood that is safe and of the same quality that people have come to expect.

Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.

For more information: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/

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