Recreational and commercial fishing has been restricted for a minimum of 10 days in federal waters most affected by the oil spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced.
The affected area is largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay.
"NOAA scientists are on the ground in the area of the oil spill taking water and seafood samples in an effort to ensure the safety of the seafood and fishing activities," said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. "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."
According to NOAA, there are 3.2 million recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 24 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.
NOAA is working with the state governors to evaluate the need to declare a fisheries disaster in order to facilitate federal aid to fishermen in these areas. NOAA fisheries representatives in the region will be meeting with fishermen this week to assist them.