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Gulf waters reopened for fishing almost one year after oil spill

By the CNN Wire Staff
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  • The move opens all federal waters formerly closed because of the Gulf oil spill
  • No oil or sheen has been found in the area since August
  • Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

(CNN) -- All federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico closed to fishing because of last year's oil spill have reopened, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the disaster.

The announcement came as the administration reopened the final 1,041 square miles of waters immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, just east of Louisiana. No oil or sheen has been found in the area since August 4, NOAA said in a statement.

NOAA sampled the area in November, March and April for potentially affected fin fish, including tuna, swordfish and escolar.

The analysis of samples found "no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors, and results of chemical analysis for oil-related compounds and dispersants well below the levels of concern," the statement said.

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The decision to reopen the waters was made after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Throughout this process, public health and safety has been our primary goal," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. "This has been an extraordinary team effort and the reopening of these federal waters serves as a dramatic example of what cooperation between federal agencies can accomplish."

The April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with more than 200 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf. At its peak in June, 37 percent of Gulf waters, or 88,522 square miles, were closed to fishing.

Also Tuesday, Omega Protein Corp. announced the final settlement of its claims for costs and damages incurred as a result of the spill. In total, the company received payments of nearly $45 million from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, it said.

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