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Gulf Coast commercial fishermen file lawsuit over new red grouper quotas

The federal lawsuit challenges allocations approved by NOAA as part of Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal government will soon impose new limits on the amount of red grouper that commercial fishers can catch in the Gulf of Mexico and local business owners say that will impact the industry and their customers.

“It will definitely cost you more today. And will probably cost you more tomorrow because there'll be less allocation,” said Frank Chivas, owner of Baystar Restaurant Group, which operates 12 restaurants in the greater Tampa Bay region.

"Which is basically the grouper capital of the world,” he said. “And believe it or not, people come down here from all over to eat fresh red grouper.”

Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fishing Company in Cortez agrees that the price for grouper is likely to rise.

“It’s limiting what we're able to sell to the public,” she said. “When the supply is reduced, the price goes up because there's less of it available."

Earlier this month, the government announced an amendment to the National Marine Fisheries Service management plan. The quota for recreational fishing would rise from 24 percent to 40.7 percent, while the commercial share would decline from 76 percent to 59.3 percent.