February 3, 2011

NOAA Re-opens Gulf Waters To Royal Red Shrimping

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it will reopen a 4,213-square-mile area of the Gulf of Mexico to deep water royal red shrimping on Thursday after federal scientists determined the fishing grounds were free of oil.

The area includes federal waters near BP's blown out well off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"Further fish and shrimp sampling and testing from the area showed no oil or dispersant contamination," NOAA said in a statement.

"This reopening was announced after consultation with the US Food and Drug Administration. All commercial and recreational fishing is allowed within this area."

NOAA's decision overturns a precautionary closure to deep-water fishing in the area instated on November 24, when a commercial shrimper discovered tar balls in his net.

However, the agency said an analysis by federal scientists to determine whether the tar came from the BP oil spill came back inconclusive.

The BP oil spill began April 20, 2010 with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed eleven people and spewed more than 205 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf waters.  The disaster affected hundreds of miles of coastline, killing wildlife and devastating critical local industries such as fishing and tourism.

The tragedy, which resulted in the closure of more than 88,000 square miles to fishing, was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and continues to impact the Gulf's environment and economy.

Common Gulf shrimp species include brown, white and pink shrimp, which are caught in waters less than 300 feet deep.  Royal red shrimp, however, are caught in waters deeper than 600 feet, and are the only shrimp species targeted with trawls at such depths.

"Extensive testing of royal red shrimp and other fish from this area revealed they are safe to eat," said NOAA assistant administrator Roy Crabtree.

"Seafood safety and consumer confidence remain a priority for NOAA, and we will continue monitoring Gulf seafood for as long as necessary to ensure its integrity."


Image 2: Reopened fishing area (in hashmarks) on February 2, 2011. Closure area may be updated daily as necessary. Credit: NOAA


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