Sunday May 2, 2010 marked the first limited fishery closure by the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Gulf of Mexico due to the BP oil spill. The area closed to all fishing is in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the east coast of LA, coast of MS, and approximately over 30 miles outside AL state waters. FL state waters extend 9 miles from the coast and the EEZ closure begins approximately 35 miles off the coast of FL and extends south west into the gulf. The area closed is directly affected by the spill but all other areas of the EEZ are open. FL state waters are open as well as AL state waters and some MS state waters. LA state waters west of the spill, all TX state waters, all FL state waters south through the FL Keys and all other areas of the EEZ are open for all fishing except for normal seasonal fishery closures.
While this disaster is devastating to fishermen, fishery businesses (charterboat, commercial, and private recreational), and communities, for the first time in such a disaster NOAA officials have listened to recreational and commercial fishermen to do all they can to keep as much area open to fishing as is possible. CCGF applauds this new cooperative effort from NOAA with the fishing community. Fishing is a lifestyle that will survive this disaster and cooperative efforts between NOAA and fishermen will help save this lifestyle.
We plead with all media organizations to spread the word of the open areas to fishing as this will help tremendously with lessening the social and economic impacts that this disaster will produce. The NOAA officials have pledged to continuously monitor the spill area and to only issue fishery closures as a result of the spill for limited periods and rolling areas. This should help to keep some fishermen working and help to ease the economic losses.
CCGF will be producing constant updates on the fishery closures to help inform the public of areas where fishing will be available. We encourage all fishermen and those families seeking vacations along coastal areas to keep apprised of locations where there is no impact from the BP oil spill. Most of the coastal areas are unaffected by the spill so families and fishermen can continue to enjoy their vacation activities.
The days and months after Hurricane Katrina hit Venice, Louisiana dead center were bleaker than anyone in the inshore or offshore fishing industry could have ever imagined. Marinas were destroyed, boats were sunk, most motels and homes simply ceased to exist. Infrastructure and economic recovery seemed a long-shot at best and this area long-recognized as one of if not the very best fishing destinations in North America seemed destined for status as a footnote in fishing folklore. But the recreational fishing industry of Venice, Louisiana would have none of it. Indeed, their message just a couple of weeks after the devastation of Katrina was crystal clear–“Come Fish With Us!” The fishermen did return and despite the poor economy skippers were operating at or near capacity for spring and summer months.
Charter boat captains in an around the Venice area are shouting the very same mantra again–perhaps even more loudly–despite a 10-day fishing restriction issued by NOAA for federal waters from the mouth of the Mississippi to waters off Pensacola, Florida.
“Right now, there are only six or so offshore rigs that we are not allowed to fish,” says Devlin Roussel of Reelpeace Charters. “There are dozens and dozens of other rigs out of Southwest Pass and well west of the Deepwater Horizon which remain largely unaffected by the oil spill. Sadly the media has made it seem as if all is doom and gloom here in Venice and everything fishing-wise has come to an end, it’s just not the case.”
It’s also not likely that President Barack Obama’s vow of ‘relentless’ response to the clean-up effort has provided any calm or clarity.
“It’s honestly setting up exactly like it did in the wake of Katrina,” says Roussel.
Although it’s certainly far too soon to ascertain the long-term environmental ramifications of the Horizon disaster, for now quality inshore and offshore fishing is not completely off-limits despite claims to the contrary and the only chance the fishing industry in and around southern Louisiana can survive is if we fishermen continue to support them. Go fishing.
To book a trip contact: www.louisianacharterboatassociation.com
Outdoor Life’s John Burgman reported from the region just days after the Horizon spill and provided THIS report on one the greatest fishing spots in North America.
Here is the NOAA announcement:
NOAA is restricting fishing for a minimum of ten days in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay (map attached). The closure is effective immediately. Details can be found here: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/. Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.
“NOAA scientists are on the ground in the area of the oil spill taking water and seafood samples in an effort to ensure the safety of the seafood and fishing activities,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, who met with more than 100 fishermen in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish on Friday night. “I heard the concerns of the Plaquemines Parish fishermen as well other fishermen and state fishery managers about potential economic impacts of a closure. Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil. There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.”
“We stand with America’s fisherman, their families and businesses in impacted coastal communities during this very challenging time. Fishing is vital to our economy and our quality of life and we will work tirelessly to protect it,” said Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. NOAA is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The federal and state governments have strong systems in place to test and monitor seafood safety and to prohibit harvesting from affected areas and keeping oiled products out of the marketplace. NOAA Fisheries is working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the States to ensure seafood safety, by assessing whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to human health.
“There are finfish, crabs, oysters and shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico near the area of the oil spill,” said Roy Crabtree, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator. “The Gulf is such an important biologic and economic area in terms of seafood production and recreational fishing.”
According to NOAA, there are 3.2 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 24 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.
NOAA is working with the state governors to evaluate the need to declare a fisheries disaster in order to facilitate federal aid to fishermen in these areas. NOAA fisheries representatives in the region will be meeting with fishermen this week to assist them. The states of Louisiana and Mississippi have requested NOAA to declare a federal fisheries disaster. BP will be hiring fishermen to help clean up from the spill and deploy boom in the Gulf of Mexico. Interested fishermen should call 425-745-8017.
NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the spill and will re-open the fisheries as appropriate. NOAA will also re-evaluate the closure areas as new information that would change the dimension of these closed areas becomes available.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.