GULF OF MEXICO — Gulf commercial and recreational fishermen Tuesday regained nearly 3,000 square miles of the vast swath of waters closed to fishing after the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reopened 2,927 square miles (7,581 square kilometers) of area it had previously closed to commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico in response to the spill.
The area closed to all fishing now measures 23,360 square miles (60,502 square kilometers) and covers about 10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone, said the National Marine Fisheries Service.
All commercial and recreational fishing including catch and release is prohibited in the closed area, the agency said.
Transit through the closed area is allowed. The next federal re-opening priority is a 6,879-square mile area located about 200 nautical miles south of the Florida panhandle.
The re-opened area was originally closed because oil was present in the area; however, no oil or sheen has been documented in the area since July 31, the Marine Fisheries Service said.
Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil. NOAA analyzed 81 finfish samples for sensory analysis and 93 finfish samples in 10 composites for chemical analysis, including commercially and recreationally important species, such as snapper, tuna, and mahi mahi.
NOAA also analyzed five shrimp samples for sensory analysis and 21 shrimp samples in three composites for chemical analysis. Sensory testing showed no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors in the samples, and the results of chemical analysis were well below levels of concern for oil.
NOAA said it continues to work closely with the FDA and the states to monitor and close 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 together to sample seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside- and market-based sampling.