The Louisiana departments of Health and Hospitals, and Wildlife and Fisheries announced today they will be closing select fishing areas and oyster harvesting beds as a precautionary response to the oil spill in the Gulf.
LDWF Secretary Robert Barham announced the closure of both recreational and commercial fishing in Zone 1, excluding the coastal boundaries of Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurapas. This closure will take place at 6 p.m. this evening. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident has resulted in a significant release of oil into the offshore waters of southeast Louisiana. Oil has the potential to impact fish and other aquatic life in portions of Louisiana’s coastal waters.
“I signed this emergency closure today as a proactive effort to prevent any oil-tainted fish, shrimp or crab from being caught and thus consumed,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “Now is the time to act as we see what the impacts may be to Louisiana’s fragile ecosystems.”
Oyster Harvesting Closures (click for map)
LDH is closing molluscan shellfish harvesting areas 2 through 7 today as a precaution. Areas 2 through 7 are east of the Mississippi River in the coastal parishes of Plaquemines and St. Bernard.
LDH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure order, which will take effect at sunset today, Friday, April 30, 2010.
Since the explosion at the BP global exploration site and resulting leak, officials from DHH’s Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have been closely monitoring the situation and continuing daily tests of the 8-million acre Louisiana shoreline.
As officials continue to monitor the remaining unaffected oyster beds west of the Mississippi River, LDH is working closely with LDWF, the state’s oyster harvesters and the Louisiana Oyster Task Force to ensure the safety of oysters taken from areas currently not affected by the spill. All oysters taken prior to closure of the affected beds are safe to eat.
“We have an extensive and well-tested program of monitoring the safety of oysters harvested in Louisiana,” Sec. Levine said. “We have been monitoring the oysters in the affected areas before the closures and will use those tests as a baseline to ensure long-term safety of the oysters when this incident ends.”
Dr. Guidry said the department’s team continues to conduct regular monitoring of the unaffected areas.
“Oysters that are still coming out of the many unaffected beds across the Louisiana coast are being watched closely,” Dr. Guidry said. “All of the beds that remain open are safe.”
Officials with both agencies are working closely with the Governor’s Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as the situation unfolds. Updates on any further closures or changes in the status of areas closed will be posted at emergency.louisiana.gov.
To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. To learn more about LDWF, visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov.