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Wildlife and Habitat Conservation News: Fishing off the Coast of Louisana



From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published May 3, 2010 03:47 PM

Fishing off the Coast of Louisana

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is restricting fishing for a minimum of ten days in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay. The closure is effective immediately. The off shore fisheries provide food and a number of jobs. The questions of testing and monitoring seafood quality will be watched carefully by NOAA, local state agencies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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The area of restricted fishing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico goes from from the mouth of the Mississippi to Pensacola Bay. The closure, which will be in effect for at least 10 days, is to protect consumers and the seafood industry from downstream health impacts.

The state of Louisiana has already closed vulnerable fisheries in state waters — within 3 miles of the coast. NOAA is closing areas directly adjacent to the area closures enacted by Louisiana, and is working with state governors to evaluate the need to declare a fisheries disaster, which would facilitate federal aid to fishermen.

Recreational fishing in much of Southeast Louisiana was also closed as oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster edged into the coast.  Closed are all coastal waters from the Mississippi state line to the Mississippi River’s South Pass, with the exception of Lakes Borgne, Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

“I signed this emergency closure today as a proactive effort to prevent any oil tainted fish, shrimp or crab from being caught and thus consumed," Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said. "Now is the time to act as we see what the impacts may be to Louisiana’s fragile ecosystems.

“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," said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, who met with more than 100 fishermen in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish on Friday night. "I heard the concerns of the Plaquemines Parish fishermen as well other fishermen and state fishery managers about potential economic impacts of a closure. Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil. There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace."

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 fin fish and shell fish in 2008.

Louisiana is a major shell fish producer. Oyster production is a $30,000,000 dockside industry according to the state. Louisiana's rich coastal waters produce 13,000,000 pounds or 2 to 2.5 million sacks of oysters annually and about 60 % of those are shipped to other states and all over the world.

NOAA is working with the state governors to evaluate the need to declare a fisheries disaster in order to facilitate federal aid to fishermen in these areas. NOAA fisheries representatives in the region will be meeting with fishermen this week to assist them. The states of Louisiana and Mississippi have requested NOAA to declare a federal fisheries disaster. BP will be hiring fishermen to help clean up from the spill and deploy boom in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the spill and will re-open the fisheries as appropriate. NOAA will also re-evaluate the closure areas as new information that would change the dimension of these closed areas becomes available.

For further information: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100502_fisheries.html

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