NOAA Reopens Gulf Waters Off The Florida Panhandle
Effective September 2, 2010 at 6 p.m. eastern time (5 p.m. central time), NOAA will reopen 5,130 square miles (8,256 sq km) of area it had previously closed to commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico in response to the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The area off the Florida panhandle that was previously open only for finfish, is now open for all fishing.The area closed to all fishing now measures 43,000 sq mi (111,369 sq km) and covers about 18% of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone. All commercial and recreational fishing including catch and release is prohibited in this closed area. Transit through the closed area is allowed. 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.The re-opened area was originally closed because oil was present in the area; however, no oil has been documented in the area since July 12, and only scattered light sheens since July 29. Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil. NOAA collected shrimp and finfish samples from this area, including commercially and recreationally important species, such as red snapper. 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.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 together to sample seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside- and market-based sampling.