"U.S. officials closed commercial and recreational fishing in a large swathe of waters hit by the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Sunday.
The affected waters, which span the coastlines of four states, are largely between the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana and Florida's Pensacola Bay, the NOAA said.
The ban took immediate effect and is in place for at least 10 days.
The U.S. Gulf coast is a rich breeding ground for fish, crabs, oysters and shrimp and accounts for about 20 percent of the nation's total commercial seafood production. The shrimp and oyster supply, in particular, is heavily concentrated in the Gulf.
'Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil,' NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, said in a statement. 'There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.'
Officials are working to prohibit harvesting from affected areas and to keep oiled seafood off the market.
Seafood marketing groups backed the plan as a way to ensure the quality of their product was not called into question."
Anna Driver and Ros Krasny report for Reuters May 2, 2010.
"Fishing Industry Threatened Indefinitely By Oil Slick" (Huffington Post)
"Gulf Town Asks God To Protect Their Livelihoods" (NPR)
"Safety Fears Halt Fishing in Areas Affected by Spill" (New York Times)