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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

Grouper ban Feb. 15-March 15 in federal waters in the Gulf

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service has announced a month-long closure of grouper fishing in federal waters.

The ban will include both recreational and commercial harvest from Feb. 15 through March 15 of gag, red and black grouper.

Federal waters effected are within the exclusive economic zone, generally nine miles from shore. It is the first time that recreational fishing is prohibited for grouper; previous prohibitions have been limited to commercial harvest.

"The operator of a vessel with a valid federal commercial Gulf reef fish permit having gag, red grouper, or black grouper aboard must have landed and sold said fish prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, Feb. 15, 2007," according to the officials.

Fish caught prior to the ban may still be sold to restaurants or other fish dealers. The prohibition also applies to party boat angling.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are considering a similar prohibition for grouper caught in state waters, that area extending from the shore out to the federal line.

FWC officials last week announced they are considering piggybacking on any federal restriction in state waters, although any action for the closer-to-shore ban would not apply to the upcoming 30-day prohibition.

FWC officials will discuss a series of fishing regulations during an April meeting.