fisherman  (Source:
Commercial fisherman are back to work

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reopened 4,281 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico after a reopening protocol agreed to by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Gulf states, and the NOAA.

The reopened waters, which are off western Louisiana, are ready for commercial and recreational fishing. NOAA experts recently caught fish in the area and they showed no signs of contamination. 

"Scientists, food safety experts, members of the fishing industry and local, state federal officials, are working together every day to ensure that seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "We will remain vigilant and continue to monitor and test seafood in reopened waters.

From July 26 to July 29, NOAA sampled shrimp and finfish like snapper and mackerel. Under the procedures and methodology of the reopening protocol, chemical analyses of 125 specimens and sensory analyses of 41 samples were composited into 14 samples, and the sensory analysis showed no oil or dispersant flavors or odors. As far as the chemical analysis goes, results were "well below the levels of concern."

But NOAA data from July 29 showed a "light sheen" of oil in the area, yet there has been none detected ever since. Also, trajectory models reveal that this particular area has a low risk of being exposed to oil in the future. 

"Because of our strict adherence to the reopening protocol agreed to by the states and the federal government, we have confidence that seafood harvested from this area is free from harmful oil residues and can be enjoyed by consumers around the nation," said Margaret Hamburg, MD, Commissioner of the FDA. 

The reopened waters are approximately 185 miles west of the BP wellhead that ruptured on April 20, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It is an area known for its fishing, especially for shrimp, reef fish and menhaden. The reopening of these waters should be a relief for commercial fisherman, and NOAA plan to test all fish captured through dockside sampling measures. 

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