Help Save Florida's Goliath Groupers!
Help Save Florida's Goliath Groupers!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is once again considering reopening fishing of the critically endangered Goliath Grouper.
Goliath grouper are slow-moving, curious fish that can weigh up to 800 pounds. Goliath groupers were once a popular fishing target which forced them to the brink of extinction. The Goliath grouper became a prohibited species in 1990, and in 1994 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the goliath grouper to the list of critically endangered species. Despite protections over the years, the goliath grouper remains listed as critically endangered.
Some fishermen complain to the FWC about goliath groupers taking trophy fish off their lines and blame them for the dwindling number of reef fish at popular fishing locations. Scientific analysis of goliath grouper stomach contents has found that the vast majority of the goliath's diet consists of baitfish or crustaceans rather than gamefish. The fishermen who are complaining fail to consider the impact they have on the reef fish, the effects of overfishing, commercial fishing, habitat loss, pollution, and red tide, all of which can disrupt the balance of underwater ecosystems. Over-fishing is the main reason for declining fish and lobster stocks, not Goliath Groupers, as some fishermen claim with no scientific data to support them.
What Does Science Tell Us?
1. A recent Florida State University research team published a paper on their findings stating, "The Goliath Grouper is still Overfished and Critically Endangered!"
2. A recent research paper by Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres shows that overfishing is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks, not Goliath Groupers.
3. An analysis of Goliath Grouper's stomach contents by the University of Florida found that 85% of their diet consists of crabs and other crustaceans. The additional 15% consisted of slow-moving fish such as pufferfish, catfish, and stingrays, not game fish.
4. Florida State University researchers published a peer-reviewed paper showing that reef fish abundance and diversity are higher when Goliath Groupers are present on those reefs. This study indicates that goliath groupers act as ecological engineers, creating life for many marine species.
5. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with other entities, have conducted several stock assessments of Goliath Groupers, with the most recent survey in 2016. The FWC's current assessment concluded that Goliath Grouper populations had recovered. However, these results were rejected by a panel of independent scientists brought in by the FWC to review the study. The panel rejected the manner in which these assessments were conducted and labeled the findings as an inconclusive measure of population. Currently, the Goliath Grouper is still listed as 'critically endangered.'
Need More Information?
1. The Goliath Grouper has become a huge, thriving piece of the ecotourism industry along Florida's East Coast. One, out of the roughly one-hundred scuba operators in South Florida, stated that he brings in an estimated $500,000 each year, generated by taking divers to see these groupers in the wild. By protecting these animals, the long-term economic benefits to the state of Florida far exceed the value generated by a one-time kill.
2. Dr. Chris Koenig's research revealed that the flesh of the Goliath Grouper contains high levels of mercury. Mercury levels in these fish were found to approach 3.5 ppm, far exceeding federal health advisory warnings. The FDA prohibits the sale of any fish with mercury higher than 1.0 ppm. With mercury levels higher than 0.5 ppm, the Natural Resources Defense Council recommends avoiding consumption due to the danger of mercury poisoning.
3. Former Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Sylvia Earle, warned that "Killing the Goliath Grouper would be killing the growing economic benefits derived from divers who want to see these Iconic animals, who are often as curious as us.
4. Some say that a 'sustainable' annual harvest of Goliath Groupers is possible, but many scientists agree that the current population would not last more than a year or two after opening such a fishery.
Email the FWC Commissioners and state that you oppose the proposal to allow a limited "harvest" of the critically endangered goliath grouper. https://myfwc.com/.../fwc-office/senior-staff/commissioners/
Sign & share our petition. https://www.change.org/.../fwc-deny-proposal-for-limited
FWC meeting details. https://myfwc.com/.../commi.../commission-meetings/may-2021/
Watch people speak up for Goliath Groupers at the 2018 FWC meeting. https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/4-26-18-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-1/