October 24, 2010

Most Of The Gulf Open To Fishing Again

US officials on Friday reopened 7,000 square miles of Gulf of Mexico waters to fishing, returning the region to nearly full fishing status.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said 96 percent of Gulf waters are now open for fishing. The latest area to reopen was located about 80 nautical miles south of the Florida panhandle.

It was the 10th reopening in the Gulf of Mexico since July, when BP engineers effectively killed the ruptured oil well on the sea floor that spilled millions of barrels into the sea.

"This is another important area for fishermen who target tuna and mahi mahi," said Jane Lubchenco, of NOAA. "Our tests continue to reveal seafood from the reopened areas is safe to eat."

The newly opened area is about 60 miles east of the Deepwater Horizon BP wellhead at its closest point.

About 9,400 square miles of fishing zone still remains closed, which is roughly 4 percent of federal waters in the Gulf. At one point as much as 37 percent of federal waters were closed to commercial and recreational fishing.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers. Two days later it sank and set off a massive oil spill as it ruptured a wellhead. It was eventually capped in July and permanently sealed last month, but authorities do not yet know the full extent of the damage.

The oil disaster disrupted the crucial fishing and tourism industries and destroyed hundreds of miles of the region's fragile coastal ecosystems.


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