More than two-thirds of the Gulf of Mexico is available for fishing since NOAA has opened more than 8,000 square miles of previously closed fishing area because the agency did not observe oil in the area. The significant opening is an area due south of Mississippi that was closed June 21st. Some smaller areas were opened of the Louisiana and central Florida coasts also.
These areas were closed as a precaution as oil was projected to be in these areas within days. However, after review of satellite images, radar and aerial data it was determined that oil has not moved into these areas.
The federal closed area does not apply to any state waters. Fishing is closed in this area as a precaution to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.
The closed area, which is approximately 32.5 percent of the Gulf of Mexico, represents approximately 78,600 square miles, leaving more than two-thirds of the Gulf federal waters available for fishing. The closure took effect at 6 p.m. on June 29, 2010.
To keep oiled products out of the marketplace, federal and state governments have systems in place to monitor and test the seafood and prohibit harvesting from affected areas. NOAA continues to work closely with the US FDA and the states to ensure seafood safety; NOAA and FDA re implementing a broad-scale seafood sampling plan. This plan includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closed area, in addition to market-based sampling.
There are approximately 5.7 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took more than 25 million fishing trips in 2008; commercial fishermen harvested over 1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in the same timeframe.
NOAA continues to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the oil spill and will re-open closed areas as they deem appropriate. They will also re-evaluate the closure areas as new information that could possibly change the boundaries of these closed areas becomes available.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.