KEY WEST, Fla., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A temporary ban on grouper fishing will bring economic hardship onto the Florida Keys during its peak tourism season, fishermen say.
The four-month ban goes into effect Jan. 1 and is meant to protect the grouper fishery, which wildlife officials say has been overfished and is now in danger. But Keys commercial fishermen and charter boat captains who take tourists on grouper expeditions say the ban will be economically devastating, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.
"This couldn't come at a worse time," Key West charter boat owner Andy Griffiths told the newspaper. "My business already is off 80 percent because of the economy."
"It's a bitter choice between sustaining the fishery or sustaining someone's livelihood," added Andy McDonald, the wholesale manager at the Islamorada Fish Co. "But if you don't sustain the fishery, there will be no livelihood."
The Herald said the ban bars commercial and recreational fishermen from keeping shallow-water grouper -- such as gag, black, red and yellowfin -- caught in federal and state Atlantic Ocean waters from North Carolina to Key West. It comes as the fishing industry is already reportedly reeling because of low demand and low prices for their spiny lobster and stone crab products.