Gulf oil spill: NOAA expands no-fishing zone to nearly a fifth of the gulf
Federal authorities on Tuesday expanded the no fishing zone associated with the BP oil spill to encompass 19% of the Gulf of Mexico. The closure now totals 45,728 square miles, extending southeast from the blowout site in the shape of a dog leg.The expansion follows the trajectory of the spill, a portion of which is heading south, where scientists say it could become entrained in the Loop Current.
In a Tuesday news conference, Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the main body of the BP spill remained dozens of miles from the loop. But "a tendril of light oil" was approaching the current, which could carry it around the Florida peninsula.
"Oil is increasingly likely to become entrained, if it is not already," she said, predicting that it would take eight to 10 days to reach the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys and Cuba.
As the strand of slick is carried along, it will evaporate and disperse, taking the form of emulsified strips and tar balls. "It will become very, very dilute," Lubchenco explained, suggesting that it would not have significant onshore impacts.
Testing of tar balls that have hit the Florida Keys indicates some are associated with the BP spill and some originate from other sources, according to NOAA.
The Loop Current consists of warm water from the Caribbean that curves around the Gulf of Mexico, travels through the Florida Straits and joins the Gulf Stream flowing up the East Coast.
Current modeling indicates that if the BP slick becomes entwined with the loop and is carried up the East Coast, it is unlikely to go far and will remain some distance offshore, Lubchenco said.
Photo: Overview of oil spill. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times