Nearly 30 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico that were closed to fishing following the BP oil spill have been reopened by the US government after tests showed that seafood there is safe to eat.
The area covers 6,879 square miles (17,800 square kilometers) off the coasts of Florida and Alabama, and is the ninth reopening of waters since the spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement on Friday.
At its closest point, the area is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southeast of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in April and sank to the sea floor, hemorrhaging crude for more than 100 days.
"Each reopening is a reassuring sign that areas once impacted by oil can again support sustainable fishing activities," said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco.
"Tourists and consumers should know most Gulf waters are open for fishing and seafood from these waters is safe to eat."
The total size of the area reopened is about 29 percent of the closed area as of October 5, the statement said.
Tuna, swordfish and mahi mahi were sampled from the area between August 7 and September 18 "with sensory analysis finding no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis for oil-related compounds well below the levels of concern," NOAA said.
About seven percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, or 16,481 square miles (42,685 kilometers), remain closed to fishing, it added.
At its peak on June 2, a total of 37 percent of federal waters (88,522 square miles, 229,200 square kilometers) were off limits to fishing as experts grappled with how to contain the worst oil spill in maritime history.