Special Reports

Fishing ban expanded to 1/3 of Gulf

NEW ORLEANS — A ban on fishing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico has been estended to an area south of Vermilion Bay, La., roughly the western edge of oil spreading from the broken BP well.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the closing brings to more than 81,000 square miles of federal Gulf waters closed to fishing, or about one-third of the Gulf.

It was the first federal closing since June 28 though some state waters have been periodically closed or reopened to fishing.

The Gulf is a major source of finfish and shellfish for U.S. consumers. NOAA said more than 1 billion pounds of seafood was commercially harvested in 2008, the latest period for which figures are available.

Ala. city prepared to launch oil skimmers

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Orange Beach officials are putting the finishing touches on a plan to deploy a fleet of small skimming vessels to collect sheen and light streams of oil from the area’s backbays.

Work also was continuing on Monday to complete a 3,200-foot-long barrier of floating pipe across Perdido Pass.

Orange Beach Coastal Resources Manager Phillip West said that at least one of the boats, which utilize absorbent pads, should be in the water by Tuesday morning and as many as five could be working by the end of the week to pick up oil from the massive Gulf spill.

West says as many as 30 of the boats eventually could ply the area’s inshore waters.

Federal wildlife agency saw low risk in oil spills

NEW ORLEANS — Documents show federal regulators concluded offshore oil drilling posed a low risk to endangered wildlife. The conclusion is at odds with scenes of pelicans fighting to survive the massive Gulf oil spill.

A September 2007 memo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said large oil spills from Gulf drilling projects are “low-probability events” that weren’t likely to affect brown pelicans, sea turtles and other endangered species at the time.

The memo, first reported by The New York Times, concluded that the chance of oil from an offshore spill of at least 1,000 barrels reaching endangered species or their habitats was no greater than 26 percent.

The agency didn’t challenge an assessment of potential danger from Gulf projects that included the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Navy sends blimp to join oil fight in the Gulf

NEW ORLEANS — The Navy is sending its MZ-3A blimp to the Gulf Coast to join in response to the BP oil spill.

Officials said Monday that the airship can stay in the air longer than helicopters or airplanes and can function as a platform for spotting wildlife in distress as well as spotting movements of the oil.

The MZ-3A, which can fly up to 12 hours straight, is expected to operate from a mooring near Mobile Bay. It will arrive today, the spill joint command center said.

Bird rehab center moving out of hurricane zone

FORT JACKSON, La. — A center where birds oiled by the BP spill have been cleaned is being moved about 100 miles inland to Hammond, La.

Officials of the oil spill joint command center said the move will put the facility out of the coastal hurricane danger zone. Hammond is in Tangipahoa Parish, about 100 miles northwest of the current bird rehabilitation facility.

— Herald wire reports