NOAA today reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 5,130 square miles of Gulf waters stretching from the far eastern coast of Louisiana, through Mississippi, Alabama, and the western Florida panhandle.
The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Gulf states.
Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and most importantly, fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts showed no signs of contamination. This is a significant area of importance to fishing and tourism, said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. The Gulf seafood taken from these waters is safe to eat, and todays re-opening announcement is another signal to tourists that the northern Gulf is open for business.
At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 54 miles north of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The entire area is heavily fished by fishermen targeting snapper, mackerel, and shrimp. In addition, the area off the Florida panhandle currently open only to finfish fishing will be opened to all fishing.
The total area is about 4 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and 21 percent of the current closed area, as last modified on August 27, 2010.