BP Oil Spill: Fisherman Say It's Time to Reopen Some Fishing Grounds

As oil becomes harder to find Gov. Jindal and others want fishing to begin again

July 26, 2010, 5:27 PM

BURAS, Louisiana, July 27, 2010— -- On day 99 of BP's oil spill crisis, almost a quarter of the Gulf of Mexico remains closed to fishing -- some 57,500 square miles -- even though there's no oil to be seen in much of the area.

Now, Gulf fishermen are fighting back, saying that what they're pulling from the areas that are open for fishing is safe -- and they'll eat it to prove it.

Watch "World News" for the latest on the BP oil spill.

Just how safe are fish from the Gulf? One way to check is to look at the oysters, because unlike fish and shrimp, they can't swim away from the oil.

Oystermen Mitch Jurisich Jr. and his brother Frank are the third generation of their family to cull the Gulf's waters. They have leases on 14,000 acres of Gulf oyster beds. Government inspectors recently reopened some of their beds, though more than half are still closed. But in the reopened beds, there's reason to hope.

"The water samples are good, that's why we are open," said Jurisich, just before he bit into an oyster to demonstrate his confidence.

Most of Louisiana's commercial fishing grounds remain closed, but recreational fishing is gradually being reopened. Today, ABC News spoke with some of the sport fisherman who already are pulling fish out of the water. They showed us a massive 28-pound redfish they landed this morning at sunrise.

"We'll eat it tonight," one fisherman said. "We didn't see a drop [of oil]."

Federal authorities agree, which is why some commercial grounds east of the Mississippi may reopen later this week.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says even that is not enough.

"We'd like to open up, not all those waters, but the majority of those waters for our commercial fishermen," he said.

Experts Caution There's Still Risk of Contamination

Still, experts warn that there's plenty of oil still deep in the Gulf, and there is a danger of moving too fast.

"It's not just a matter of oil being on the surface," said Samantha Joye, a marine scientist with the University of Georgia. "There's a lot of dispersed oil in the water, and that stuff could end up in the food web."

Oysterman Jurisich is eager to see more beds reopened, but he too knows the danger of moving too fast.

"We have to be very sure that when we put these back there, they are safe for the consumer," he said.

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