NOAA opens more Gulf waters to fishing after BP spill

DALLAS (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico are now almost completely open for fishing in one of the most promising signs of environmental recovery in the wake of the massive BP oil spill.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Monday it had reopened more than 8,400 square miles of Gulf waters to recreational and commercial fishermen, leaving only a fraction of the area still closed because of the spill.

It was the 11th such opening since July 22. NOAA said 99.6 percent of federal waters in the Gulf were now open to fishing. Only an area covering 1,041 square miles immediately around the ruptured Macondo wellhead remains closed.

Over 88,000 square miles of the Gulf were closed to fishing at one point because of the spill, stoking anger in local communities which rely heavily on the sea as a source of income and recreation.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April, killing 11 workers and releasing more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in the worst-ever U.S. oil spill.

NOAA said in a statement that no oil or sheen had been detected in the area reopened on Monday since July 25. Tests were also conducted to see if dispersants used to break up the oil had made their way dangerously into the marine food chain.

“This is the first reopening where we have added a supplemental test to detect dispersants in seafood, and all the samples passed,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

“This is yet another indication that our Gulf seafood is safe for consumption,” Lubchenco said.

NOAA said last month that it was putting into effect a chemical test to detect the presence of dispersants at dangerous levels in fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard, Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

NOAA opens more Gulf waters to fishing after BP spill