For the first time in months, the government has good news for Gulf of Mexico fishermen: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has decided to reopen a 68,345 square kilometer chunk of the gulf to commercial and recreational fishing. That reduces the closed area by about a third but leaves about a quarter of U.S. gulf waters still off-limits.
In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NOAA describes why it closed the area in the first place over a month ago despite the fact that heavy oil was never seen in the area.
The region begins about 300 kilometers east and slightly south of the well. Some surveys reported a sheen that may or may not have been oil. But forecasts showed the Loop Current sweeping oil into the region. That never happened, it turns out:
We now have evidence that the oil in the vicinity of Area A actually became entrained in a circular current in the middle of the Gulf and remained there. Oil never spread through Area A because in early June the loop current shifted far to the south and has not shifted back to the north through the center of the Gulf. The last confirmed sighting of oil in Area A occurred on June 15th.
Before reopening the area, NOAA, according to the fishery bulletin, caught and tested 52 samples of fish from the area:
Sensory testing showed no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors in the samples, and the results of chemical analysis were well below levels of concern.