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NOAA reopens more Gulf waters to fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 7,970 square miles of Gulf waters along the southern boundary of the federal closed area.

This area is about 60 nautical miles off central Louisiana and about 140 nautical miles off Mississippi, Alabama and the western edge of the Florida Panhandle.

"This area is significant to commercial and recreational fishermen who target tunas and billfish that migrate far and wide and provide an important source of income and sport," said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in a statement. "We'll continue to work with our partners at FDA and the Gulf states to ensure our Gulf seafood is safe so we can reopen more areas to fishing."

The total area reopened today is about 3 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and 20 percent of the current closed area, as last modified on Sept. 3.

No oil or sheen has been documented in the area since July 21, NOAA said. At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 50 miles south of the Deepwater/BP wellhead.

The remaining closed area now covers 31,915 square miles, or about 13 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf.

NOAA also announced this week that recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf will reopen for an added season to allow fishermen to catch the quota they did not reach because a portion of the Gulf was closed because of the oil spill.

Recreational fishing will be allowed Friday through Sunday for eight weeks, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 21.

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