NOAA: Fishing Ban Now Covers 22% of Gulf Federal Waters



NOAA has extended the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to match the Louisiana state waters closure west of the current boundaries, and to incorporate an area reportedly with oil in the southwest. 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 54,096 square miles, which is slightly more than 22 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than 77 percent of Gulf federal waters still available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Details can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/.

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.

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.