WASHINGTON, DC -  NOAA has expanded the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to capture portions of the oil slick moving beyond the area’s current northernboundary, off the Florida panhandle’s federal-state waterline. This boundary was moved to Panama City Beach.

This federal closure does not apply to any state waters. Closing fishing in these areas is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.

The closed area now represents 80,806 square miles, which is approximately 33.4 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than 66 percent of Gulf federal waters available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Details can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/. The last closed area modification was June 7, when 78,264 square miles were closed to fishing, or roughly 32 percent of federal waters of the Gulf.

The federal and state governments have systems in place to test and monitor seafood safety, prohibit harvesting from affected areas, and keep oiled products out of the marketplace. NOAA continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the states to ensure seafood safety, by closing fishing areas where tainted seafood could potentially be caught, and assessing whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that pose a risk to human health. NOAA and FDA are working to implement a broad-scaled seafood sampling plan. The plan includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the closure area, as well as dockside- and market-based sampling.

According to NOAA, there are approximately 5.7 million recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region who took 25 million fishing trips in 2008. Commercial fishermen in the Gulf harvested more than one billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2008.

Fishermen who wish to contact BP about a claim should call 800-440-0858.