On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced that it would close 4,213 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to royal red shrimping.
The decision was made after a commercial shrimper hauled in his catch of the deep water shrimp and discovered tar balls in his net. Fishing for other shellfish and finfish species within this area is still allowed.
Royal red shrimp are harvested by pulling fishing nets across the bottom of the ocean floor. Because fishing at shallower depths in this area has not turned up any tar balls, only royal red shrimpers are affected by the current closure.
The tar balls are being analyzed by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if they are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has continually insisted that Gulf seafood is safe for human consumption, tests from several independent laboratories have confirmed that Gulf seafood contains a high level of toxic compounds as a result of oil contamination.
Just last week, a young diner in North Carolina found crude oil in his meal of raw oysters that had been harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently, the NOAA is sending vessels to the area to re-sample for royal red shrimp. The agency has plans to re-open the shrimping area after determining there is no seafood safety concern.
An area covering 1,041 square miles immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead still remains closed to all commercial and recreational fishing.
The fishing area closure was first instituted on May 2, at which time it covered about 3 percent (6,817 square miles) of Gulf waters around the wellhead. As oil continued to spill from the wellhead, the area grew in size, peaking at 37 percent (88,522 square miles) of Gulf waters on June 2.
Image Credit: Flickr - USOceanGov