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Gulf oil spill: Oyster beds, shrimp areas closed

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The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced the closure Saturday of oyster harvesting beds west of the Mississippi River, as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The closed areas were identified as molluscan shellfish harvesting areas 14 and 15. Both are west of the Mississippi River in the coastal parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne.

DHH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program has continued its regular testing in oyster beds along the state's 8-million-acre shoreline.

In addition, DHH scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds, as well as from the state's many unaffected beds, to create a baseline sample. This baseline will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears and the beds are reopened. Oysters being harvested in unaffected areas and oysters taken prior to closures of the affected beds are safe to eat.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken similar measures in select shrimping and fishing areas.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham announced that the shrimp season in the territorial seas of the central coast of Louisiana -- from Four Bayou Pass to Freshwater Bayou -- were closed effective sunset Saturday.

As a result, all outside territorial waters from the Mississippi-Louisiana state line to Freshwater Bayou were now closed to shrimp harvesting, the department said. A press release further explained:

Secretary Barham also announced that LDWF will delay the opening of the inshore shrimp season in Zone 2 until further notice.

Secretary Barham also announced that the inshore waters of Zone 3, from the western shore of Vermilion Bay to the Louisiana/Texas state line are opened at sunset, Saturday, May 8, 2010.

Secretary Barham has made these decisions based on the potential effects from the Gulf oil spill and under the authority granted by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.

-- Geoff Mohan

 
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