(Corrects paragraph 3 to read "... did not voice opposition." instead of "... did voice opposition.")
WASHINGTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday designated the fish-rich Bristol Bay area of Alaska "off limits" for oil and gas leasing, the White House said, drawing praise from environmental groups.
The area off Alaska's coast supports a $2 billion annual fishing industry as well as the tourism sector, the White House said.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska questioned the timing of the announcement but did not voice opposition.
"Given the lack of interest by industry and the public divide over allowing oil and gas exploration in this area, I am not objecting to this decision at this time," she said in a statement.
Environmental groups lauded the move.
"The president has shown wisdom and vision in protecting this amazing region of the world from drilling," Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler)