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As BP oil spill fight continues, more areas closed to the public

As efforts continue to stop the flow from the BP oil spill, areas used for recreation and fishing are being closed to public access. It's a blow to recreational and commercial fishing businesses.

By Staff writer / May 7, 2010

A US Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 910th Airlift Wing drops an oil-dispersing chemical into the Gulf of Mexico. The use of chemical dispersants is controversial because little is known about the compounds used and what, if any, effect they may have on marine life.

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Robert, La.

With confirmed sightings of oil across a 50-mile chain of islands that line Louisiana’s Southwestern coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has ordered the affected area closed to public entry. The agency also expanded an earlier ban on fishing in the area east of the Mississippi River.

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Last Sunday, NOAA announced a ten-day ban on all recreational and commercial fishing between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida’s Pensacola Bay. That set off alarms for the state’s fishing industry, which is the second largest in the US, producing up to 25 percent of the total domestic seafood in the lower 48 states. Commercial fishermen harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.

The Chandeleur Islands chain represents the first shorelines to receive oil from the April 20 BP oil spill and tanker collapse that NOAA says is releasing 210,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. The US Fish and Wildlife Service closed the islands Friday after sightings showed oil on both sides of the chain’s southern half.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

The expanding ban now applies to about 4.5 percent of total Gulf waters under federal jurisdiction. However, for fisheries the area is also among the most fertile areas for bountiful catches, which is why both Louisiana and Mississippi are pressing NOAA to declare a fisheries disaster.

Recovery efforts have yet to fully prevent the daily discharge of oil from the underwater wells. Emergency response efforts like the use of chemical dispersants are proving controversial because little is known about the compounds used and what, if any, effect they may present for marine life.

Surface burning was ineffective earlier in the week due to multiple days of rainstorms and harsh winds, which recently subsided.

“We’re very thankful for the [clear] weather, it’s responsible for probably our most productive days,” said US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry at a press conference Friday. To date about 9,000 barrels of oil have been burned, Adm. Landry said.

Recovery booms are being placed along the coast to capture the oil before it moves inward. Although the booms collected over 50,000 barrels of oil-infested water, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles admitted that “skimming operations are not efficient” because they depend on how concentrated the oil is in the water. Mr. Suttles said it is likely that 90 percent of what was collected this week is water.

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