Almost 3,000 square miles of water off of eastern Louisiana have beem reopened to recreational and commercial fishing, NOAA announced today.
The reopened waters are off eastern Louisiana, directly south and southwest of East Bay. This is the eighth reopening in federal waters since July 22.
This reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.
The total area reopened today is about 1 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and 11 percent of the current closed area, as last modified on October 1. No oil or sheen has been documented in the area since July 31. At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 40 miles south of the Deepwater Horizon BP wellhead.
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NOAA began sampling the area on July 28 and again August 21 through September 18 for shrimp and finfish, including tuna, mahi mahi and red snapper. Sensory analyses of 81 finfish and 5 shrimp samples and chemical analyses of 93 finfish samples in 10 composites and 21 shrimp samples in 3 composites followed the methodology and procedures in the reopening protocol, with sensory analysis finding no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis for oil-related compounds well below the levels of concern.
NOAA will continue to take samples for testing from the newly reopened area. The agency will also continue dockside sampling to test fish caught throughout the Gulf by commercial fishermen.
The remaining closed area now covers 23,360 square miles, or about 10 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf. The boundary of the fishery closure has changed 29 times after it was first instituted on May 2, at which time it covered about 3 percent (6,817 square miles) of Gulf waters around the wellhead. As oil continued to spill from the wellhead, the area grew in size, peaking at 37 percent (88,522 square miles) of Gulf waters on June 2. To date, NOAA has reopened more than 60,000 square miles of oil-impacted federal waters under this protocol and sampling regime.