US authorities close huge Gulf area to fishing –

US authorities close huge Gulf area to fishing Published:  03 May, 2010

COMMERCIAL  fishing over a large area of the Gulf of Mexico has been closed by the US authorities in the wake of the massive oil spill following last week’s rig disaster.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)has also banned recreational fishing activities.

The area covered stretches from New Orleans almost up to the Florida Coast, one of the largest shrimp (prawn) fishing area in the United States. Already there are signs that the disaster is starting to push up fish prices in the United States. This is partly based on the fears that the oil slick could move around Florida and move up the US East Coast.

The U.S. Gulf coast is a rich breeding ground for fish, crabs, oysters and shrimp and accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s total commercial seafood production. The shrimp and oyster supply, in particular, is heavily concentrated in the Gulf. The fishing industry in that region is worth at least $2.6 billion a year. Most of the fish caught is destined for domestic consumption, but there is also a growing export market to Canada.

In a bid to calm fears over seafood,  NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, said:  “Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil. There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.”

Jane Lubchenco  has already spoken to over 100 fishermen in Louisiana to hear their concerns about the economic impact of a closure. NOAA officials are evaluating the need to declare a fisheries disaster, as the states of Louisiana and Mississippi have requested, to facilitate federal aid to fishermen. Meanwhile, fishermen are already preparing compensation claims for BP which operated (but does not own) the disaster rig.