Pending closures of vast portions of the South Atlantic fishery could put hundreds of area residents out of their jobs and take local seafood off the table.
Already, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has ordered that most grouper fish be left alone from Jan. 1-April 30, a blow to the local fishery as well as restaurants and their patrons, people involved in the industry say.
The latest proposal would shut down huge areas of the ocean to fishing to allow the red snapper population to restore itself. The council says red snapper are dangerously overfished and are at 3 percent of the level they were measured at in 1945.
The moves affect both recreational and commercial fishing, and could eventually affect tourism if people can't come and catch the fish they want, or if they can't dine on the local fresh-caught fish they expect.
"I think there's a lot of areas that can be affected," said chef James Clark of Waterscapes in Myrtle Beach. He participates in the sustainable fishery movement and helps train other chefs in ways to cook fish that are not on the limited list, but fears the shutoff of some areas will cut access to all local fish, forcing restaurants to use less-fresh and less-tasty imports.