NOAA further extends Gulf closed area
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico into the northern portion of the loop current to ensure seafood from the Gulf remains safe for consumers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico into the northern portion of the loop current as a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.
Though the latest analysis shows that the bulk of the oil remains dozens of miles from the loop current, the new boundaries address the possibility that a tendril of light oil has entered or will enter the loop current, said NOAA.
The closed area now represents 45,728 square miles, which is slightly less than 19% of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than 81% of Gulf federal waters—or nearly 195,000 square miles—still available for fishing.
The newly closed area is more than 150 miles from the nearest port and primarily in deep water used by pelagic longline fisheries that target highly migratory species, such as tuna and swordfish.
Coastal fisheries, such as grouper, snapper and shrimp, will not be affected by the expansion of the closed area, said NOAA.
”The BP oil spill is unprecedented and quickly changing. The administration’s response since the beginning has been aggressive, strategic, and science-based," said Dr Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
"As we expand the fishing closed area, we are doing what science demands of us and are acting with caution to ensure the safety of the seafood Americans will put on their dinner plates. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Gulf coast fishermen and their families during these challenging times.”
The loop current is an area of warm water that comes up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
The current is also known as the Florida current as it flows through the Florida Strait and then into the Gulf Stream as it heads north to the east coast of the US.
Both the location of the loop current and the location of the oil slick are dynamic. Both move around from day to day.
Satellite imagery on 17 May indicated the bulk of the oil is dozens of miles away from the loop current, but a tendril of light oil has been transported close to the loop.
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 and the US Food and Drug Administration (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.“Due to the unprecedented and ongoing discharge of oil, FDA agrees that NOAA's closure of these federal waters is one appropriate public health measure to prevent potentially unsafe seafood from being harvested and reaching consumers,” said Dr Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner. “We understand that it will be necessary to continually evaluate the boundaries as the situation evolves.
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