The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a minimum ten-day ban on all recreational and commercial fishing 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.
The closure is effective immediately, and both Louisiana and Mississippi have requested that the NOAA declare a federal fisheries disaster.
“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 fishermen in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish on Friday.
Because of the potential economic impact of a prolonged closure on the local fishing industry, the NOAA restricted fishing only in those areas that are visibly affected by oil. Dr. Lubchenco also pointed out that there should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, visual cues may not be enough to determine how much of the Gulf’s seafood is contaminated by the spill.
Oil spills present the potential for enormous harm to deep ocean and coastal fishing and fisheries. The immediate effects of toxic and smothering oil waste may be mass mortality and contamination of fish and other food species, but long-term ecological effects may be worse.
Oil waste poisons the sensitive marine and coastal organic substrate, interrupting the food chain on which fish and sea creatures depend, and on which their reproductive success is based. Commercial fishing enterprises may be affected permanently (Water Encyclopedia).
Would you really want to snack on shrimp or fish that was caught from an area only a few miles outside the restricted zone?
The NOAA Fisheries division collaborates with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure seafood safety, and assess whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to humans.
But the USDA’s idea of “safe levels” of contamination doesn’t always eliminate the risk of negative health effects.
Commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008. The area also boasts 3.2 million recreational fishermen who took 24 million fishing trips in 2008.
BP, the company responsible for the offshore oil rig now releasing hundreds of thousands of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, has offered to hire land-bound fishermen to help clean up the spill and deploy boom while the ban is in place.
Too bad they just couldn’t refrain from putting it there in the first place.
Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.
SIGN THE PETITION!
Prevent Another Oil Spill: Rethink Offshore Drilling
Please stay tuned to Care2 Causes for more information about the Gulf Spill as it develops.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - alex_lee2001