On 2 May 2010, fishing was banned in the federal waters affected by the spill. BP then contracted the fishermen to take part in spill response. On 7 May, fishing was banned in less than 4.5 % of US waters in the Gulf of Mexico. On 15 May, 8 %, and from the 7 June approximately 33 %, of federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico were closed to fishing.
On 22 July 2010, part of the ban area was reopened to fishing according to a protocol validated by NOAA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the States bordering the Gulf. Three main criteria were considered: no traces of oil had been found in the area for 30 days, samples of fish flesh and other fished resources showed no tainting of the taste or smell with oil, and finally the analyses conducted on these flesh samples indicated that the level of chemical substances was below the critical level. The area closed to fishing was reduced to 24% of federal waters.
On 10 August, an area covering 13,323 km² was reopened but only for fish landings. 22% of federal waters in the Gulf remain closed to fishing.
The area closed to fishing was gradually reduced, reaching a surface area of 2,700 km² by 15 November 2010, representing 0.4% of federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. However, on 24 November, NOAA closed 10,900 km² to royal red shrimping after a fisherman discovered tarballs in his net. This ban was lifted on 2 February 2011. Today, only the area in which the rig exploded remains closed (approx. 2 700 m2).
Census of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico
The results of an international study (Census of Marine Life), conducted over 10 years, on the distribution of species and their diversity in the world's oceans, and in particular in American waters, (An overview of Marine Biodiversity in United States Waters), were published on 2 August 2010. The census covered 15,419 species (plants, animals and microbes) in the Gulf of Mexico before the oil spill, which will enable the impact of the disaster to be more accurately assessed.
Rapid response venture
On 21 July 2010, four major oil groups (Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Philipps, Shell) announced the creation of a billion dollar fund to develop a containment system capable of being deployed on a well 3000 m deep to recover some 16,000 m3 a day. This system will be operational within 24 hours and will be functional in all weather conditions. On 20 September, BP announced its intent to join the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) to share the experience acquired through this accident. BP also intends to make all the equipment used during response available to all other companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
In June 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), charged with managing plant and animal resources, had 600 people onsite to coordinate rescue and cleaning operations for birds and mammals.
On 28 June 2010, FWS announced the launch of a major turtle rescue plan. It aims to collect tens of thousands of eggs of endangered turtles (Loggerhead, Kemp's ridley, leatherback and green turtles) and transport them in polystyrene boxes to Florida’s Atlantic coast. When they hatch, the baby turtles will be taken by hand to the ocean.
Despite the high uncertainty of the results of such a plan, FWS believed that if no action was taken, all the hatchlings in the north of the Gulf of Mexico would be lost. By the end of August, this operation was considered a success, as 15,000 turtles had reached the sea.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service together with NOAA kept an up-to-date Consolidated Fish and Wildlife Collection Report. Between the beginning of the spill and 2nd November 2010, the recorded impact on fauna was as follows:
Particular attention was paid to the health of staff responding at sea and on land. Workers were asked to report any symptoms or illness to BP’s health services. The data was then transferred to OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which belongs to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and whose role is to conduct research and make recommendations for the prevention of occupational injury and illness. Reports on the most frequent illnesses and injuries by geographical location were regularly produced and updated. Heat stroke was also monitored due to the intense heat and high humidity levels in the Gulf of Mexico, the sensation of heat being exacerbated by the protective equipment worn by response workers.
Compensation for environmental damages: the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)
After an oil spill on the scale of that of the Gulf of Mexico, an institutional procedure, known as NRDA, is implemented by NOAA, to compensate and restore environmental damage. The parties responsible for the spill are involved in this procedure and are responsible for the costs of restoration and implementation of the NRDA process.
In the case of Deepwater Horizon, the first stage in the NRDA procedure (pre-assessment stage) was implemented at the very beginning of the disaster. It involves collecting data from the edge of the pollution on the biological state of many categories of resources (birds, marine mammals, subtidal and intertidal habitats). Data is also collected on the recreational activities liable to be impacted by the pollution. In mid-September 2010, around 3,200 km of coastline was studied and 23,500 samples were taken: water, sediment, biological tissues (fish, turtles, dolphins) and oil. 295 NOAA staff and 475 contractors are employed in the NRDA effort. The parties responsible for the accident had already paid out over 45 million dollars to conduct the first stage of the NRDA.
The first stage in the NRDA procedure was completed in mid-September 2010 and the damage assessment and restoration planning stage was launched. This phase will last from several months to a number of years.