The slick spreads, fishing is banned, legal claims multiply

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) yesterday extended the boundaries of the area closed to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico to include 45,728 square miles, or about 19% of Gulf’s federal waters. The extended area includes part of the loop current that moves out through the Florida Strait and into the Gulf Stream heading north along the U.S. east coast … a potential conveyor for the slick from the April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The NOAA points out that the closed area is primarily in deep water fished for such migratory species as tuna and swordfish. But the threatening spill has already roiled a commercial fishing sector that harvested more than one billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.

MSNBC reports one example: Louisiana’s shrimping season should just be starting its 55-day run through mid-July. Instead, anticipating the pollution to come, the state opened the season early and closed it May 4. But the shrimp were not mature enough to harvest, and the catches were meager.

BP has already agreed to compensate fishermen, opened up local claims centers and set up a claims hotline (800-440-0858). But the line of claimants is growing. As Houma Today reports, George Cortello, owner of New Orleans eatery Frankie and Johnny’s is joining other seafood restaurateurs and their suppliers in a lawsuit that asks for a legal judgment on whether they, too, can collect on damages from BP.

What to do? For ways to help, try this MSNBC clearinghouse.

For supply chain strategies, The Datamyne can help locate alternate sources for shrimp, prawns, tuna, swordfish, and other coastal and deepwater seafood. The Datamyne U.S. import, export and U.S. bill-of-lading databases can also provide a good measure of the volume and value of the region’s cross-border commerce in seafood, and the extent to which it is damaged as the BP disaster unfolds. To consult a trade data specialist — at no obligation — contact us.

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