In 2014, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FCC) along with NOAA and other federal partners formed a committee to assess the Goliath grouper population. That said, an independent panel of scientists noted the stock assessment lacked reliable indications of abundance beyond South Florida.
Despite a consensus that Goliath grouper populations have recovered, the FCC is considering a proposal allowing a “limited take” of goliathgroupers in state waters. The proposal: One hundred fishermen, selected based on a random draw, could catch and keep one Goliath grouper per year.
We’re joining Mission Blue to encourage all divers to submit your feedback online at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments, or attend a public workshop (various locations throughout Florida) to share your thoughts in person. The giant of the grouper family, the Goliath (formerly called Jewish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail.
The skeletal structure of large Goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage. If a large Goliath is brought on-board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and therefore be considered harvested.
Goliath grouper populations declined throughout their range during the 1970s and 1980s due to increased fishing pressure from commercial and recreational fishers and divers. There have been increases in abundance in certain areas (e.g., Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the Ten A Thousand Islands), and the distribution of Goliath grouper populations has extended into areas of its former range throughout Florida, including the Big Bend and Panhandle regions.
Stock assessment were conducted for Goliath grouper in 2004 and 2010, but both were rejected by a review panel for use in federal management. At their July 2014 meeting in Key Largo, this committee reviewed the most up-to-date scientific information on Goliath grouper and recommended a new stock assessment for this species.
As a result, the most recent stock assessment, conducted by the FCC was completed in June 2016 (Sedan 47). The stock assessment indicates abundance in south Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990.
However, in the final step of the review process, the assessment was rejected by an independent panel of scientists for use in federal management due to a lack of reliable indicators of abundance outside south Florida. Goliath are also susceptible to large scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tide blooms.
Before the Goliath grouper reaches full-size it is preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel and moray eels, as well as sandbar and hammerhead sharks. Calico crabs make up the majority of their diet, with other invertebrate species and fish filling in the rest.
Reproductive maturity first occurs in fish 5 or 6 years of age (about 36 inches in length) due to their slow growth rate. These groups occur at consistent sites such as wrecks, rock ledges and isolated patch reefs during July, August and September.
Studies have shown fish may move up to 62 miles (100 km) from inshore reefs to these spawning sites. In southwest Florida, presumed courtship behavior has been observed during the full moons in August and September.
The Atlantic Goliath grouper or Tamara (Epimetheus Tamara), also known as the Jewish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 164 ft). Its range includes the Florida Keys in the US, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean and most of the Brazilian coast.
On some occasions, it is caught off the coasts of the US states of New England off Maine and Massachusetts. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from the Congo to Senegal.
Young Atlantic goliathgroupers may live in brackish estuaries, oyster beds, canals, and mangrove swamps, which is unusual behavior among groupers. They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and can weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb).
The world record for a hook-and-line-captured specimen is 308.44 kg (680.0 lb), caught off Fernanda Beach, Florida, in 1961. Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic Goliath grouper were a highly sought-after quarry for fishermen.
It is a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen because of the grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning annually to the same locations.
Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline. The fish is recognized as “vulnerable” globally and “endangered” in the Gulf of Mexico.
The species' population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish's slow growth rate, however, some time will be needed for populations to return to their previous levels. Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, which refer to organisms that are born female and at some point in their lifespans change sex to male.
Males can be sexually mature at about 115 centimeters (45 in), and ages 4–6 years. In May 2015, the Atlantic Goliath grouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time.
Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. Tamara. In tidal pools juvenile E.Tamara are able to utilize rocky crevices for shelter.
Besides shelter, tidal pools provide E. Tamara with plenty of prey such as lobster and porcelain crab. The Atlantic Goliath grouper has historically been referred to as the “Jewish”.
It may have referred to the fish's status as inferior leading it to be declared only suitable for Jews, or the flesh having a “clean” taste comparable to kosher food ; it has also been suggested that this name is simply a corruption of jaw fish or the Italian word for “bottom fish”, Giuseppe. In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because of complaints that it was culturally insensitive.
^ Lovato, Cleo nice Maria Cardozo; Soars, Bruno Clears; Begot, Tiago Octavio Buffalo; Montage, Luciano Coach de Assis (January 2016). “Tidal pools as habitat for juveniles of the Goliath grouper Epimetheus Tamara (Lichtenstein 1822) in the Amazonian coastal zone, Brazil”.
Risky, Delaney C.; Bakenhaster, Micah D.; Adams, Douglas H. (2015). “ Pseudorhabdosynochus species (Monogenoidea, Diplectanidae) parasitizing groupers (Serranidae, Epinephrine, Epinephrine) in the western Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters, with descriptions of 13 new species”.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Epimetheus Tamara. Goliath groupers will be on the agenda on Thursday, April 26th, starting at 8:30 am, at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North.
You can view the entire agenda for this two-day Florida Wildlife Commission (FCC) meeting here. Standard practice generally allows each speaker two to three minutes to voice their concerns on the subject, in this case, reopening a fishing season on Florida’s iconic goliathgroupers.
In Florida) for Goliath grouper are highly divergent, ranging from a no-take perspective for the preservation of the fish for ecotourism at one end, to a strong desire to reopen them to fishing due to the belief that their numbers have more than recovered, and they are now a “nuisance species.” FCC is proposing that a limited harvest would be handled through a random drawing for approximately 100 kill tags.
The actual fee for each individual tag is still undetermined but the maximum amount that could be collected is capped at USD $300. By the time they are ready to move offshore and populate coastal reefs and wrecks they are approximately four feet long.
Hence, generally that means in order for anyone to find and catch a fish in the slot-size range proposed by the FCC they will likely capture of larger breeding age adults. There is also the potential for an exponential rise in poaching activity as it will be harder for the FCC, with their limited resources in law enforcement, to track and clarify which fish was or was not landed legally.
Originally, the season was planned to last one full week with a limit on adult bears take at no more than 320 individuals. In a Washington Post op-ed, the newspaper cited that the Florida chapter director of Humane Society of the United States wrote that the FCC’s reasoning for the bear hunt “ignores science,” noting that black bears were listed on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species List as recently as 2012.
A state judge who denied an injunction to stop the hunt agreed that much of the science that FCC was using to justify it was weak. The bottom line: wildlife management by politics instead of biology and scientific data does not work.
The most recent study published in the Martin project final report for NOAA on regional age structure, reproductive biology and tropical patterns of adult Goliath grouper in Florida, using data provided by the FSU fish biological department, found levels of methyl mercury in adult goliathgroupers that were frightening to say the least. Part of FSU doctoral student Chris Malinowski’s work on the presence of mercury in goliathgroupers found MMH concentrations in the muscle tissues (filet portion) among the younger fish in the 4.5 to 5.2-foot range averaged 1.5 ppm, with maximum figures as high as 2.6 ppm.
The US Food and Drug Administration’s “action level” (which the FDA may prohibit sale of fish) is 1.0 ppm. The FCC’s own fishery management staff know all this, but are still allowing the commissioners to push an agenda that the data does not support.
Compare that to a dive charter, which can fill a boat with divers specifically to see Goliath, particularly during their spawning season from late July to early October. Note that September is Goliath grouper month” in Palm Beach County and the image of a Goliath with a diver transfixed on it is, as of 2017, the new logo for Palm Beach County Artificial Reef Program.
The call to action for reopening the fish for harvest revolves around the belief that the goliathgroupers are eating all the legal-size grouper, snapper and lobster. We’ve all heard that “they are beautiful, majestic creatures that should not be hunted” from those opposed to lifting the protective measures for these fish.