The Gulf Slowly Returns
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reopened 4,281 square miles of Gulf waters off western Louisiana to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states. On July 18, NOAA data showed no oil in the newly reopened area. Light sheen was observed on July 29, but none since. Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.
Between July 26 and July 29, NOAA sampled the area for both shrimp and finfish, including mackerel and snapper. Sensory analyses of 41 samples and chemical analyses of 125 specimens that were composited into 14 samples followed the methodology and procedures in the re-opening protocol, with sensory analysis finding no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis well below the levels of concern.
In related developments of progress, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the fall inshore shrimp season will open in Shrimp Management Zones 1, 2 and 3 on August 16 Also announced were reopenings of to commercial crabbing in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and Orleans parishes.
At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 185 miles west of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The entire area is heavily fished by fishermen targeting reef fish, menhaden and shrimp.
Menhaden is not a fish used for human consumption but is used as either bait or animal feed. Reef fish is a general statement covering several varieties of marine life living near reefs or reef like structures.
All of this is a good sign and a testament to the resilience of nature.
For further information: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100827_reopen.html