Reef Relief publicly opposes any type of harvest on the critically endangered Goliath grouper.
Top predators like the Goliath Grouper are essential in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Goliath groupers nearly faced extinction in the 1980’s due to overfishing. As a result, both the federal and state government instituted a complete ban on take – they are not allowed to be caught in any state or federal waters.
Many have claimed that the Goliath Grouper population has increased in Florida waters, and are considering opening a season on this fish via lottery system Some argue that goliaths are causing a decline in snappers, game fish, and lobsters but goliaths primarily eat crabs, shrimp, and less-prized fish. Goliath Groupers have even been found to consume the invasive Lionfish. In reality, these targeted game and snappers are being overfished by humans.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, the population recovery has stopped and potentially declined. The reports of the population nearing a recovery is based on the population numbers from the 80’s, when the species was almost extinct, not based on the numbers when the species was thriving in the 1950’s. Scientists believe the decline today is caused by recurring red tides, extreme weather events, loss of the mangrove ecosystems, which is where the juvenile grouper spend the first six years, and poor water quality. Any added fishing mortality will certainly lead to a population decline.
Goliath groupers hold a bigger monetary value alive than dead as divers from all over the world visit our state to view these animals in the wild. According to Dr. Sylvia Earle’s alliance Mission Blue, one spawning aggregation generates about half a million dollars a year for a single dive business.
Scientists found extraordinarily high mercury concentrations in Goliaths off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of Florida. This may also further impede the overall recovery of this species. Consuming high amounts of mercury are incredibly harmful, especially to children and pregnant women making this fish inedible.
The survival of the Goliath grouper population remains uncertain and faces many environmental and anthropogenic challenges. The current catch and release of this fish, as well as habitat damage, climate change, and water quality issues continue to threaten the longevity of this species. The Goliath Grouper has proven to show much more economic value alive as they have been documented to consume and help manage the invasive lionfish population and are an important component for dive sites, elevating tourism. Reef Relief requests that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission choose to conserve and protect this species for future generations.
For more information and voice your opposition: https://www.change.org/p/fwc-deny-proposal-for-limited-harvest-of-the-critically-endangered-goliath-grouper