Gulf of Mexico oil spill: US government extends no-fishing zone

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
By Paul Martin

The US government has announced that it was nearly tripling the size of an area in the Gulf of Mexico that’s closed to fishing because of a massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.

TelegraphUK
19 May 2010

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed nearly 46,000 square miles, or about 19 per cent of federal waters.

Originally 7 per cent of the Gulf was closed to fishing boats after an offshore oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Rig operator BP PLC estimates that the blown-out well has leaked more than 5 million gallons.

The expanded ban covers an area that starts near the Louisiana coast and moves southeast in a diagonal line. From Mississippi to Pensacola, the ban starts about 30 miles offshore. It begins moving away from shore at the Florida-Alabama border. At its eastern end south of Apalachicola, about the midpoint of the Florida Panhandle, the ban starts about 160 miles offshore.

The spill has scared off charter fishing customers at the Pensacola Beach marina, even though the water they’d normally trawl is still open.

“Usually you’d see 15 or 20 people walking up and down out here asking about the fishing. Three-fourths of these slips would be empty,” said Jerry Andrews, a Pensacola native who has been fishing here for 34 years.

Mr Andrews said before the spill he was getting between 30 and 40 calls and e-mails a day asking about chartering his boat and his customers were catching their full quotas of vermilion snapper, triggerfish, amberjack and grouper.

But in the month since the spill, he gets hired for one or two trips a week, tops. Most of his customers, who come from Alabama and Georgia, are now going to the Carolinas.

He said BP, as part of its plan to help coastal businesses harmed by the spill, has paid him $5,000 and the oil giant has promised further help, but he doesn’t know when that’s coming.

Analysts said it doesn’t appear the new restriction will hurt most US seafood chains and retailers.

Just 2 per cent of US seafood comes from the Gulf, said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute trade group. The vast majority is imported from fisheries around the globe.

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