Published: Jul 23, 2010 12:19 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 22, 2010 9:24 PM EDT

GULF OF MEXICO - NOAA will re-open 26,388 square miles of Gulf waters to commercial and recreational fishing on Thursday.

The decision was made since oil has not been seen in the area for 30 days.Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

The area to be reopened is about 190 miles southeast of the Deepwater/BP wellhead, and the area where the majority of fishing will occur is about 220 miles from the wellhead, along the west Florida shelf.

Between June 23 and July 5, NOAA collected samples of fish, including grouper, snapper, tuna, and mahi mahi from the area where the heaviest fishing will take place. Sensory and chemical testing following the methodology and procedures in the re-opening protocol showed no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and the results of chemical analysis were well below the levels of concern. NOAA will continue to take samples for testing from the newly re-opened area

"Today's decision is good news for Gulf fishermen and American consumers," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. "Following the best science for this re-opening provides important assurance to the American people that the seafood they buy is safe and protects the Gulf seafood brand and the many people who depend on it for their livelihoods."