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Biggest oil spill forces closure of Mississippi Sound to fishing

Biggest oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico forces the closure of all commercial and recreational fishing in the Mississippi Sound.

By Associated Press / July 2, 2010

In the wake of the biggest oil spill ever to hit the Gulf of Mexico, a clean up worker lifts a handheld skimmer full of weathered oil from the waters off Ken Combs Pier in Gulfport, Miss., on July 1.

Amanda McCoy/The Sun Herald/AP

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Biloxi, Miss.

The Mississippi Sound is now completely closed to all commercial and recreational fishing.

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On Thursday night, the state Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality closed the last open portion of Mississippi's territorial marine waters.

Any fish, shrimp, crabs or oysters caught in the closed area must be immediately returned to the waters. There is no catch and release fishing allowed in the closed area.

IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

The precautionary closure is a result of oil sightings in this general area and the potential impacts on Mississippi's coastal marine resources.

Mississippi's bays and rivers remain open for fishing.

Also Thursday, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP PLC, told coastal officials in Jackson County that tar balls, patties, mousse and other oil residue from the Deepwater Horizon gusher will continue to wash up on the local shoreline for two months after the flow has stopped.

"We know the travel time is about that," he said. "It will still come ashore after that, but in much smaller quantities. We are going to be here as long as it is coming in."

Suttles made a visit Thursday to Pascagoula Beach, a newly created 1.5-mile long beach where about 200 workers hunted for oil debris.

Mike Mangum, president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, and Robbie Maxwell, Pascagoula mayor, accompanied Suttles on the beach walk.

"I feel much better after talking with him," said Maxwell. "One of the reasons we had him out here was to look at the beach and understand the beach is eroding and we are preparing to put riprap on it, and how that is going to affect his operations."

Donald Langham, county emergency management director, said Ocean Springs and Pascagoula beaches were "pretty much" cleaned.

A flight over the Mississippi Sound on Thursday found patches of oil between the barrier islands, he said.

"Most of the islands have impact," he said.

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IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature