WASHINGTON — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have announced that they are taking additional inspection steps to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat and not contaminated by oil. The strategy includes precautionary fishery closures, increased seafood testing inspections and a new reopening protocol.
Shortly after the oil spill caused by BP's Deepwater Horizon rig began spreading through the Gulf in April, NOAA began testing seafood caught and harvested from areas where the spill had not yet reached. NOAA is using ongoing surveillance to determine whether contamination is present outside areas that have been closed to commercial and recreational fishing. If samples test positive for elevated levels of oil compounds, NOAA will consider expanding closed areas.
NOAA will utilize vessel monitoring systems to verify that fish and shellfish were caught outside of these closed areas. If tainted fish are found in dockside sampling, NOAA will notify FDA and state health officials for further action.
FDA operates a mandatory safety program for all fishery products under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Public Health Service Act and related federal regulations. It will first target oysters, crab and shrimp for additional sampling. Sampling will primarily target processors who buy seafood directly from harvesters.