NOAA has extended the northern boundary of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico up to the Mississippi federal-state water line and portions of the Alabama federal-state water line – 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 61,854 square miles, which is slightly less than 26 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters.
This leaves more than 74 percent of Gulf federal waters available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 5 p.m. today. The last closed area modification was May 25, when 60,683 square miles were closed to fishing, or roughly 25 percent of federal waters of the Gulf.
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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.
However, NOAA’s Fisheries Service is increasing the level of data collection to more closely monitor the effects of the oil spill on Gulf recreational fishing. This will allow the agency to adjust the closure date for recreational fishing seasons as appropriate, including the red snapper season which is scheduled to close at 12:01 a.m. July 24.
“We are communicating regularly with Gulf fishermen about real-time oil spill observations and projections, as well as collecting feedback on what they see while out fishing,” said Roy Crabtree, NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast regional administrator. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we are prepared to extend fishing seasons if we see catches are down, and seafood is safe.”
The federal and state governments have systems in place to test and monitor seafood safety, prohibit harvesting from affected areas, and keep oiled products out of the marketplace. NOAA continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the states to ensure seafood safety, by closing fishing areas where tainted seafood could potentially be caught, and assessing whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to human health. NOAA and FDA are working to implement a broad-scaled seafood sampling plan. The plan includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside- and market-based sampling.
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.
Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.
NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the spill and will re-open closed areas as appropriate. NOAA will also re-evaluate the closure areas as new information that would change the boundaries of these closed areas becomes available.