Stop The FWC From Reopening Fishing Of The Critically Endangered Goliath Grouper
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Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is considering reopening fishing of the critically endangered Goliath Grouper. Local fishermen have pressured the agency, stating that the grouper populations have recovered and they fear the groupers are consuming too many game-fish and lobsters.
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 stomach contents by the University of Florida found that 85% of their diet consists of crabs and other crustaceans. The other 15% was found to consist 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 is higher when Goliath Groupers are present on those reefs. This study shows 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 taking place in 2016. The FWC's recent 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.'
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) concludes that if permits to harvest the grouper are sold for $300 (an approximation), the current proposal to issue 400 Goliath Grouper permits could bring in roughly $120,000 to be used for 'scientific research' aimed to protect Goliaths. In addition, they state these captured fish can be sold for food.
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.
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