Just one day before the one year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, NOAA announced that the last area of federal waters has reopened to fishing.
The last 1,041 square miles of Gulf waters immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead is now open to commercial and recreational fishing. It's the 12th and final reopening in federal waters since July 22.
"I am pleased to announce that all federal waters affected by the spill are now open to all fishing," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. "I thank fishermen and the public for their patience and FDA for its support and cooperation throughout this process while we worked diligently to ensure the integrity of Gulf seafood."
NOAA sampled this area between November 11 and November 14, 2010, March 12 and March 16, 2011, and March 28 and April 1, 2011, for potentially affected finfish, including tuna, swordfish, and escolar. The tests found no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis for oil-related compounds and dispersants well below the levels of concern.
"Throughout this process, public health and safety has been our primary goal," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "This has been an extraordinary team effort and the reopening of these federal waters serves as a dramatic example of what cooperation between federal agencies can accomplish."
No oil or sheen has been documented in the area since August 4. At its peak, the closed area was 88,522 square miles, or 37 percent of Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.