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Blog Category: Oil Spill

NOAA: All Federal Waters of the Gulf Once Closed to Fishing Due to Spill Now Open

NOAA map: Tuesday, April 19, 2011: The last area in federal waters closed to fishing due to the oil spill reopens (

More than 1,000 square miles opened today

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 1,041 square miles of Gulf waters immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, just east of Louisiana. This is the twelfth and final reopening in federal waters since July 22, and opens all of the areas in Federal waters formerly closed to fishing due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

“I am pleased to announce that all federal waters affected by the spill are now open to all fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “I thank fishermen and the public for their patience and FDA for its support and cooperation throughout this process while we worked diligently to ensure the integrity of Gulf seafood.”

NOAA sampled this area between November 11 and November 14, 2010, March 12 and March 16, 2011, and March 28 and April 1, 2011, for potentially affected finfish, including tuna, swordfish, and escolar.  Read more in NOAA press release

Federal Science Report Details Fate of Oil from BP Spill

Alternate TextThe vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed  much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the robust federal response efforts.

A third (33 percent) of the total amount of oil released in the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill was captured or mitigated by the Unified Command recovery operations, including burning, skimming, chemical dispersion and direct recovery from the wellhead, according to a federal science report released today.  See NOAA release

NOAA, FDA, and Gulf Coast State Officials Affirm Commitment to Ensuring Safety of Gulf Coast Seafood

Federal and state agencies will use joint protocol for reopening closed waters

Image of tubs of shrimpGulf Coast state health and fisheries officials joined with senior leaders from several federal agencies to affirm a shared commitment to ensuring the safety of seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, through closures of affected waters, surveillance, and with an eye toward reopening closed waters as soon as possible, consistent with public health goals.

Representatives from Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency met last week in New Orleans with state health officers and state fisheries directors from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to coordinate implementation of a joint protocol for sampling and reopening that will apply to both state and federal waters.  

Together, they will implement a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-agency program to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. This is important not only for consumers who need to know their food is safe to eat, but also for fishermen who need to be able to sell their products with confidence.

Read more  |  Official statement of acceptance of protocol  |  Summary of the reopening protocol

Secretary Locke Announces $10.27 Million in Grants to Gulf Coast Region

Grants to aid economic recovery for communities impacted by BP oil spill

Following his second visit to the Gulf Coast to talk with local businesses impacted by the BP oil spill, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced today eight grants for the Gulf region totaling $10.27 million – most for economic development planning and coastal management.

Locke heard firsthand from affected businesses last week when he traveled to Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans, La.

“People’s livelihoods across the Gulf are at risk,” Locke said. “From day one, the Obama administration has been committed to containing the damage from the BP oil spill and extending to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. These grants are one more aspect of the administration-wide commitment to doing whatever it takes to help folks deal with the unexpected challenges brought on by this environmental disaster.”

Three grants will be administered through the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and five other grants will be administered through Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA).  Read more

Secretary Locke Addresses 78th Annual Meeting of U.S. Conference of Mayors

Image of conference video clip with president of mayor conference and LockeU.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Oklahoma City for the 78th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors held at the Cox Convention Center. Locke addressed the crowd on the final day of the conference, and Commerce’s Assistant Secretary for Economic Development John Fernandez and Census Bureau Director Robert Groves spoke over the weekend. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. Each city is represented at the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

On Sunday, a special session highlighted the conference with mayors from Gulf Coast cities dealing with the BP oil spill and its devastating after-effects. During the session, mayors discussed a resolution put forth by the mayors of Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee, Fla., that calls for increased federal efforts to access, mitigate and recover from the environmental and economic damage of the disaster and work closely with other local officials in all phases of the national response. Locke visited the Gulf Coast region last Thursday and spoke with local businesses that have been impacted economically by the oil spill. Remarks  Secretary's Conference video

NOAA Launches Website With Online Mapping Tool to Track Gulf Response

Image of mapping tool

The dynamic nature of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill has been a challenge for a range of communities--from hotel operators to fishermen to local community leaders. And the American people have questions about the response to this crisis.

Today, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launches a new federal Web site meant to answer those questions with clarity and transparency--a one-stop shop for detailed near-real-time information about the response to the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. The Web site incorporates data from the various agencies that are working together to tackle the spill.

Originally designed for responders, who make operational decisions, to the oil spill disaster, http://www.GeoPlatform.gov/gulfresponse integrates the latest data on the oil spill’s trajectory, fishery closed areas, wildlife and place-based Gulf Coast resources--such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and daily position of research ships--into one customizable interactive map.

Image of Deep Drill 3 platformThe launch of the public site is designed to facilitate communication and coordination among a variety of users--from federal, state and local responders to local community leaders and the public--the site is designed to be fast, user-friendly and constantly updated.

Beyond NOAA data, the site includes data from Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, the Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, NASA , U.S. Geological Survey and the Gulf states . Agencies contribute data through the response data sharing mechanism within the command posts. This includes posting geospatial data on a common server, allowing access and use for multiple spatial platforms.

“This Web site provides users with an expansive, yet detailed geographic picture of what’s going on with the spill; Gulf Coast fisherman, recreational boaters, beach users and birders will be able to become more informed,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “It’s a common operational picture that allows the American people to see how their government is responding to the crisis.”

Developed through a joint partnership between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center, the site is a Web-based GIS platform designed specifically for response activities where it is necessary to coordinate with various federal, state and local agencies. The site will serve as the official federal source for map-based data.  Interactive Map   Deepwater Horizon update

http://gomex.erma.noaa.gov/

Secretary Locke Visits Gulf Coast, Holds Economic Impact Meetings With Business Leaders

At the direction of President Obama, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke travels to the Gulf Coast today to meet with local officials and business owners impacted by the BP oil spill. In Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans, La., Locke will hear directly from area businesses affected by the disaster.

During his visit to the region, Locke will hold economic impact meetings in all three cities and fly over the coastal regions of the Gulf between Biloxi and New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu will join Locke at the New Orleans meeting. In the evening, Locke will visit a bait shop to hear how the oil spill has affected the business.

The Obama administration has mobilized one of the largest responses to a catastrophic event in history, authorizing 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to participate in the response. More than 24,000 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines, and more than 4,500 vessels are responding on-site, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts.

Read more

NOAA’s Oil Spill Response in the Gulf of Mexico

NOAA and White House officials examine fish samples taken from spill area

As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been on the scene of the BP spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations.

NOAA has mobilized experts from across the agency to help contain the spreading oil spill and protect the Gulf of Mexico’s many marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, shellfish and other endangered marine life.

NOAA spill specialists are advising the U.S. Coast Guard on cleanup options as well as advising all affected federal, state and local partners on sensitive marine resources at risk in this area of the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally:

  • NOAA is predicting the oil spill’s trajectory and the path of the layers of oil floating on the surface. OR&R experts are conducting aerial surveys to update trajectory maps and visually track the movement of the spill.
  • NOAA’s National Weather Service is providing regular weather forecasts to a joint federal command center in Louisiana to facilitate operations planning and response efforts.
  • Experienced marine mammal spotters from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center are participating in surveillance flights flown by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations to assess the species and populations that may come in contact with the spill.
  • NOAA also is using experimental satellite data from our Satellite Analysis Branch to survey the extent of spill-related marine pollution.

As a major partner in the federal response to this evolving incident, NOAA will continue to provide the necessary coastal and marine expertise required for sound, timely decision-making and help protect the affected Gulf Coast communities and coastal marine environment.

Latest News

Secretary Locke Announces Fishery Failure Determination in Gulf of Mexico

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today determined there has been a fishery disaster in the Gulf of Mexico due to the economic impact on commercial and recreational fisheries from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The affected area includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“We are taking this action today because of the potentially significant economic hardship this spill may cause fishermen and the businesses and communities that depend on those fisheries,” Locke said. “The disaster determination will help ensure that the Federal government is in a position to mobilize the full range of assistance that fishermen and fishing communities may need.”

Locke made the determination under Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  The declaration was made in response to requests from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour based on the loss of access to many commercial fisheries and the existing and anticipated environmental damage from this unprecedented event.

Since May 2, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has closed a portion of federal waters affected by the spill to commercial and recreational fishing. This closure area, which is based on the scientific trajectory of the spill, now includes nearly 20 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi and the waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

Full release
Related NOAA release

Latest NOAA status release on oil spill