Fishing reopened in 5,130 square miles of Gulf

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, September 2, 2010

MIAMI (AP) — Fishing and shrimping can resume in federal waters in the northern Gulf of Mexico stretching from Louisiana’s far eastern shore into Florida’s Panhandle, authorities said Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lifted its ban over roughly 5,130 square miles of federal waters from Pensacola west through Alabama and Mississippi to the edge of Louisiana’s east coast.

Shrimping can also resume in federal waters east of Pensacola along the Florida Panhandle, a 5,000-square mile area reopened to other fishing last month.

Roughly 43,000 square miles of federal waters remain closed, an area mostly off Louisiana and stretching into the open Gulf.

The reopened area is considered low-risk for future exposure to oil. Shrimp, mackerel, snapper and other seafood collected from July 27 through Aug. 11 has not shown any signs of contamination, though NOAA plans to continue taking samples from the water and dockside from commercial fisherman.

“The Gulf seafood taken from these waters is safe to eat, and today’s reopening announcement is another signal to tourists that the northern Gulf is open for business,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

About 88,000 square miles of federal waters in the the Gulf off Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were closed to fishing after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers.

At its closest point, the reopened area lies about 54 miles north of the Deepwater wellhead.

It’s about 250 miles from another oil rig platform that exploded and caught fire Thursday, spreading a mile-long oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico west of the site of BP’s massive spill.