The federal government has reopened an additional 7,000 square miles of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to commercial and recreational fishing.
That means 96 percent of all federal waters are now open, after a series of closures this summer as oil gushed into the Gulf following the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the reopening of waters 60 miles east of the Macondo well site, off the coast Florida between the Florida-Alabama state line and Cape San Blas, Fla.
Today marks the tenth reopening of fishing areas in the Gulf since July 22. The decision came after NOAA and the federal Food and Drug Administration sampled numerous finfish in the area and conducted smell tests and a chemical analysis for oil.
Expert trained sensory analysts for NOAA sampled 155 samples of finfish from the area, and the agency sent 156 fish samples done in 22 separate composite tests for analysis in NOAA’s labs. The smell testing indicated no oil or dispersant taint, and the chemical analysis found that no levels of hydrocarbons anywhere near the level of concern for humans.
Even if fish come in contact with oil or ingest it, most adult species can process any hydrocarbons extremely fast, within 48 hours, according to NOAA and FDA scientists. NOAA and the FDA are also conducting random dockside tests of seafood, and also testing at processing plants throughout the Gulf coast.
The only area of the Gulf that has yet to be reopened is a 9,444-square-mile area directly around the BP wellhead. Four percent of the Gulf is closed, down from 37 percent at the peak of the spill on June 2.