Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) concurred with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' (LDWF) request to begin the process to re-open state waters to commercial fishing currently closed east of the Mississippi Delta, including the Chandeleur Islands. These areas were originally closed due to confirmed reports of oil suspected to be from the Deepwater Horizon incident. This marks the first federal testing to take place on seafood in these waters since the state issued the emergency closures. Once samples from these areas are determined to be safe of all hydrocarbons and dispersant substance, LDWF Secretary Robert Barham intends to order immediate openings to commercial fishing in these areas.
Currently, LDWF fisheries biologists are collecting thousands of specimens of crab, shrimp and finfish in these areas to submit to FDA and NOAA for sensory testing and chemical analysis. Once these samples are processed, the FDA will render their decision on the reopening.
"Once this opening is complete it will leave only eight percent of state waters closed to commercial fishing," said Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. "The state will not rest until all areas are open including federal waters off Louisiana's coast."
LDWF guidelines for re-opening commercial fishing areas are as follows:
Once visible signs of oil are no longer apparent in waters previously closed by LDWF to commercial fishing, LDWF will submit an 'intent to reopen' letter to NOAA and FDA.
LDWF biologists then conduct thorough sampling of finfish, crabs and shrimp in the proposed reopening area.
Following the collection of the samples, biologists will immediately transfer specimens to be tested by the FDA and NOAA for signs of chemical contamination.
Once the analysis is complete FDA and NOAA will render an opinion regarding the proposed reopening. The entire process is expected to be completed in 14 days.