NOAA this week reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 8,403 square miles of Gulf waters which extend from the Louisiana state water line to due south of the Alabama/Florida state line. This is the 11th reopening in federal waters since July 22.
This reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.
The total area reopened is about 3.5 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and 89 percent of the current closed area, as last modified on Oct. 22. No oil or sheen has been documented in the area since July 25. At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 10 miles from the wellhead.
Meanwhile, far from the Gulf of Mexico, the New England Fishery Management Council voted Tuesday against a request that it consider reopening thousands of square miles of fishing grounds that were closed 16 years ago.
In December 1994, the National Marine Fisheries Service closed nearly 6,600 square miles of fishing grounds in three areas off the Cape Cod coast to protect spawning fish and help rebuild cod, haddock and flounder populations that had fallen to historic lows, mainly as a result of overfishing.
In the intervening years, haddock and scallops have rebounded to healthy population levels, and some council members wanted to reopen those closed areas because fishermen were not catching their annual quota in the open fishing grounds.