Deepwater Horizon spill closes Gulf Coast fisheries

05 May 2010
Tackling Deepwater Horizon

President Barack Obama has described the oil slick created by the collapsed Deepwater Horizon rig as a "potentially unprecedented" environmental disaster. (Photo:BP)

NOAA implements blanket commercial fishery closures in the wake of the oil rig disaster.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been forced to close the US waters most affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil slick to commercial fishing.
NOAA introduced the 10-day commercial fishing ban on Sunday 2 May. It was imposed on areas deemed the most at risk, namely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to the waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.
Around 80% of the country’s domestic, wild seafood supply is harvested in the region.
“NOAA scientists are on the ground in the area of the oil spill taking water and seafood samples in an effort to ensure the safety of the seafood and fishing activities,” said NOAA Administrator Dr Jane Lubchenco.
“I heard the concerns of the Plaquemines Parish fishermen as well other fishermen and state fisheries managers about potential economic impacts of a closure. Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil. There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.”
BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform caught fire on 20 April and collapsed a day later.
Officials estimate approximately 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the well each day, and several attempts to shut off the well’s valve have failed.
NOAA’s announcement arrived on the same day that BP started drilling a relief well to intercept and isolate the oil well that is spilling oil in the US Gulf of Mexico. 
The new well, in 5,000 feet of water, is planned to intercept the existing well around 13,000 feet below the seabed and permanently seal it. 
This new drill site is about half a mile on the seabed from the leaking well in Mississippi Canyon block 252, and drilling is estimated to take some three months. 
 "This is another key step in our work to permanently stop the loss of oil from the well," said BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward. "At the same time we are continuing with our efforts to stop the leak and control the oil at the seabed, to tackle the oil offshore, and to protect the shoreline through a massive effort together with government agencies and local communities."
While difficult to accurately estimate, BP’s website says the cost to the MC252 owners of the efforts to contain the spill and secure the well is currently estimated to be more than $6 million (€4.6 million) per day. This figure is rising as activity increases.
BP has acknowledged it is “absolutely responsible” for cleaning up the spill. But the company claimed it was not to blame for the accident which sank Deepwater Horizon.
Hayward said the equipment that failed belonged to Transocean, the owner of the rig.
Both companies are expecting lawsuits over the slick, which US President Barack Obama has described as a “potentially unprecedented” environmental disaster.

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