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Today, out of an abundance of caution, NOAA has closed 4,213 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to royal red shrimping. The precautionary measure was taken after a commercial shrimper, having hauled in his catch of the deep water shrimp, discovered tar balls in his net.
Fishing for royal red shrimp is conducted by pulling fishing nets across the bottom of the ocean floor. The tar balls found in the catch may have been entrained in the net as it was dragged along the seafloor.
Other fishing at shallower depths in this area has not turned up any tar balls and is thus not impacted by this closure. The fisherman who reported this catch had trawled for brown shrimp in shallow waters in a different portion of the area to be closed earlier in the day without seeing tar balls.
Following the report of tar balls, NOAA was in contact with shrimpers involved in royal red shrimping in this area. Only a handful of the approximately 250 permitted royal red shrimp fishermen are currently active in the fishery. The tar balls are being analyzed by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if they are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill.