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More than 5,000 square miles of Gulf waters reopened to fishing

September 3, 2010 |  6:50 am

Area reopened to fishing on Sept. 2 (in hashmarks).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials announced the reopening of 5,130 square miles of Gulf of Mexico waters to recreational and commericial fishing.

The area stretches from the far eastern coast of Louisiana, through Mississippi, Alabama and the
western Florida panhandle and was reopened after fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts showed no signs of contamination.

The reopening was announced Thursday after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA and the gulf states.

"This is a significant area of importance to fishing and tourism," said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The gulf seafood taken from these waters is safe to eat, and today’s reopening announcement is another signal to tourists that the northern gulf is open for business."

NOAA will continue to take samples for testing from the newly reopened area. The agency also implemented dockside sampling to test fish caught throughout the gulf by commercial fishermen.

Approximately 43,000 square miles of federal waters in the gulf remain closed. NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for closures and will reopen areas as appropriate.

-- Kelly Burgess

Image: Crosshatched area reopened to fishing Thursday. Credit: NOAA