Werner, who is from Farmington, Minn., was fishing May 31 near Marco Island off Florida with her brother, mother, and stepfather. “These things have amazing power,” Paul Hartman, Werner’s stepfather, told the Pioneer Press.
According to the International Game Fish Assn., the heaviest goliathgrouper caught by a woman weighed 366 pounds. That fish, caught by Betsy Walker off Panama in 1965, is the women’s world record for 80-pound-test line.
Thanks to the longstanding harvesting ban, the population is growing and larger fish are again being encountered by scuba divers and catch-and-release anglers. Somewhere in the warm waters off the Florida Keys lives a fish named Sylvia.
Fabien Cousteau named the distinctive Atlantic goliathgrouper after famed ocean scientist Sylvia Earle when the curious fish and her larger companion repeatedly visited Cousteau during his expedition in the undersea laboratory Aquarius off-Key Largo in 2014. “As ocean icons, it seemed normal that two beautiful Goliath groupers we saw almost every day would be named after my grandfather and Sylvia,” Cousteau says.
The arguments may sound plausible on the docks, but do not add up in the science lab, says Chris Koenig, a retired University of Florida marine biologist who has studied Goliath for decades. “People make up all kinds of reasons why the fish must be destroyed,” Koenig says.
Koenig, whose fascination with Goliath groupers dates to his boyhood when the fish was considered worthless, and his wife, Florida State University scientist Felicia Coleman, posted a “fact or fiction” paper online to refute false claims and clarifying the groupers’ dining habits and biology. Koenig says the push to lift the ban on catching goliathgrouper has more to do with sport than anything else.
Among trophy fish caught in the Florida Keys, the goliathgrouper has long held special distinction. “We don’t really know how low the population got right before the closure,” says Amanda Valley, the commission’s spokesperson.
Valley adds the commission has no plans on the horizon to the reconsider grouper ’s status. Dan Maria, a commercial diver who used to hunt Goliath with a spear when they were plentiful, now thinks they are worth more alive than dead.
The experience becomes even more exotic during mating season, when Goliath migrate north to cooler waters just off Palm Beach, Florida, and gather in groups of 50. “Nowhere else in the world can you swim up to a fish that is the size of a small Volkswagen and pet it on the face and see about 30 of them around you,” he says.
He's finalizing a new analysis of the behemoth, in which he lays out a plan for reopening the juvenile goliathgrouper to fishing on a limited, sustainable basis. “They are killing them now and leaving them on the bottom,” since it's breaking the law to possess a grouper.
It's a fish that can reach the size of a grizzly bear, and it's loved by divers and despised by many fishermen. The goliathgrouper, capable of growing to 800 pounds, bobs around the reefs and swallows the occasional crab or passing fish.
As fishermen tell it, these marine blimps hover in wait of easy meals, parking themselves next to fishing boats and snatching someone else's hard-won catch off the line. They face strong opposition from environmentalists, divers and some scientists, who relish the opportunity to see these enormous, surprisingly curious fish just a few hundred yards from South Florida's condo towers.
“If you sit still, they'll come to you and see what's going on,” said Kevin Metz, owner of Underwater Explorers of Boynton Beach, whose business from August through October consists almost exclusively of taking divers to see Goliath groupers at a submerged wreck. For anglers, watching in dismay as Goliath groupers swallow their catch, the huge fish are as charming as that friend who always seems to show up around dinner time.
His eyeball was the size of a baseball, and its mouth was so big it could’ve eaten a small child.” Brian Sanders of Davie has taken famous South Floridians including former Miami Dolphins' linebacker Zach Thomas and former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fishing for Goliath.
Written comments to the wildlife commission in support of allowing them to be taken again describe similar experiences. Whether to allow them to be killed, the wildlife commission has received 439 written comments so far, the majority from fishermen who blame the resurgence of Goliath groupers for a decline in the number of other fish.
“They eat massive amounts of reef fish to maintain and grow to these huge weights. Known until 2001 by the politically incorrect name “Jewish,” the goliathgrouper had sustained a sharp decline due to overfishing for its meat, the loss of coastal habitat for young fish and the inherent vulnerabilities of a long-lived species that takes years to reach sexual maturity.
The species is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of wildlife populations. “Recent stock assessment indicates abundance in South Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990,” said Amanda Valley, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.
“While a limited harvest of smaller-sized fish in south Florida is unlikely to harm the population, the FCC also wants to take into consideration stakeholder perspectives. Sylvia Earle, one of the world's foremost marine biologists, who was named a Hero for the Planet by Time magazine, strongly supports keeping the ban, saying that living Goliath groupers are ecological treasures that support a growing tourism industry.
Screen grabs courtesy of Blackish's Instagram videoVideo showing a leviathan-sized fish grabbing a quick bite to eat off the Florida coast while sending a startled angler into a hysterical frenzy has emerged. Oh my gosh!” Jorgensen exclaims, before cracking up with laughter as the monster fish disappears as suddenly as it had popped to the surface.
In 2018, Florida wildlife commissioners “refused to lift a nearly two-decade ban on harvesting the fish, citing continued uncertainty about the remaining numbers and bowing to the demands of divers and scientists, who packed a meeting and led an online petition that drew nearly 60,000 signatures,” the Herald reported. TJ Macias is a Real-Time national sports reporter for McCarthy based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth Retroflex.
Every summer, hordes of thrill-seeking scuba divers travel to Florida’s east coast to swim alongside these prehistoric looking predators. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FCC) is considering reopening the fishery temporarily for recreational anglers for the first time in 30 years.
Scientists believe reopening the fishery would undermine 27 years of conservation efforts and reduce ecotourism revenue in Florida by millions of dollars. During a series of public forums held by the FCC last summer, many local fishermen expressed support for the proposal.
They claim killing Goliath groupers would improve Florida’s spiny lobster and snapper fisheries, which have been declining for years. A 2009 report by researchers from Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory indicated that spiny lobster and snapper make up less than 4 percent of the Goliath grouper diet.
Another study, published in January 2013 in the journal “Onyx,” found that snapper and spiny lobsters’ abundance doesn’t increase when Goliath groupers are removed from their habitat. As top-level predatory fish, Goliath's maintain the health and balance of their prey populations, which studies have shown is beneficial to commercial fisheries.
If FCC allows even a limited harvest of Goliath groupers, dive operators on Florida’s east coast stand to lose a lot of money. You’ve probably seen groupers being caught and were simply amazed at just how large they are.
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting fun facts and statistics about this popular fish. You can find a range of types of grouper based in the Atlantic and the Gulf.
Some of them include the scamp, black, snowy, gag, red, Warsaw, yellow fin, and speckled hind. However, for sport anglers out there, keep in mind that this particular type of grouper is protected.
When people think about fish that they don’t want to meet while they are in the water, sharks are probably the top on that list, perhaps followed by barracuda. Take the video that you can find online from 2014 that shows a Goliath grouper rising right out of the depths and swallowing a… wait for it… Blacktop shark.
It circles the shark for a bit and then snatches it right out of the water before the angler can bring it on the boat. Since you now know that there are different types of grouper, this question becomes a bit more difficult to answer.
In fact, they can be in excess of nine feet long and can weigh up to 1000 pounds. This fish can grow up to 7.5 feet long and it can weigh more than 440 pounds.