“The fact we’re even having this discussion means we’ve been successful,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chair BO River. Curious and generally fearless, they were easy targets for anglers and spear fishermen, especially when they gathered in large numbers in July and August to mate.
After the ban in 1990, the fish began to bounce back, but scientists believe Florida's record 2010 freeze likely sent numbers downward again. Anglers, however, have increasingly complained that the voracious fish are taking over reefs and gobbling up their catches.
A survey FCC conducted in the Keys and Dry Tortugas found just a 2 and 4.5 percent increase. They also said lobster counts have remained stable, indicating that the fish are not affecting the popular, and lucrative, crustacean.
The controversy over whether to allow harvesting has divided some anglers and divers, who consider the gentle Goliath a mascot for the reefs. On Thursday, about 60 speakers, nearly all divers and many wearing Save the Goliath T-shirts handed out by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, criticized the move as an attempt to appease anglers.
“You’re awarding a trophy fish to essentially a lazy hunter,” said Miami diver James Woodard. UM Rosenthal School of Marine and Atmospheric Science fishery scientist Bill Hartford and Nova geneticist Andrea Bernard said they are working on building a statistical model, similar to methods used to assess blue fin tuna, that can account for gaps in catch history caused by the fishing moratorium and provide an accurate count for adult fish in Florida.
“People got us into this problem and if the fishing opens back up, we'll likely be back in this position,” said Ellie Fodder, a sophomore environmental study major at Becker College who left campus at 3:30 a.m. Thursday with her dive club, the Scuba Jews, and campus rabbi, Ed Rosenthal, to make the morning meeting. Gulf grouper are large fish that live in shallow, coastal areas during their first 2 years of their life, before moving on to rocky reefs and kelp beds.
Gulf grouper used to be very common in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but they became scarce because commercial and recreational fisherman could easily catch them. Their abundance has severely declined since the mid-20th century primarily because of direct harvest by commercial and artisanal fisheries.
Outside a known population in Bahia Magdalena, there is no published evidence of gulf grouper along the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula. Current gulf grouper distribution appears to be much more limited than their historical range.
They gather at reefs and underwater mountains and form spawning aggregations from April to June. Activities that may degrade their habitat include the release of contaminants, such as urban runoff, wastewater, or oil and gas spills.
Pollution can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the water or deliver chemicals that are toxic to these fish. Physical barriers, such as shoreline and offshore development can also threaten gulf grouper by limiting their access to important breeding or feeding areas.
Overfishing Direct harvest of gulf grouper, especially at spawning aggregation sites, is the biggest threat to the species. First, adult gulf grouper gather in large groups at the same time every year to reproduce.
Additionally, gulf grouper likely start life as females but later transition into males. This means that there are fewer male groupers left in the oceans, which makes reproduction more difficult.
Although some populations are below target levels, U.S. wild-caught red grouper is still a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations. Fishing gear used to catch red grouper rarely contacts the ocean bottom and has minimal impacts on habitat.
They engulf prey whole by opening their large mouths, dilating their gill covers, rapidly drawing in a current of water, and inhaling the food. Large sharks and carnivorous marine mammals prey on adult red grouper.
Red grouper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil. Annual catch limits are used for red grouper in the commercial and recreational fisheries.
These fisheries are closed when their annual catch limit is projected to be met. Both the commercial and recreational fisheries have size limits to reduce harvest of immature red grouper.
Year-round and/or seasonal area closures for commercial and recreational sectors to protect spawning groupers. On August 26th, Joshua Anyzeski caught the prohibited species, removing it from the water to take a picture.
The evidence package for this seizure has been forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service, who will determine if a formal Notice of Violation will be issued. “This case is a great example of interagency coordination to identify illegal fishing practices and allows for efficient enforcement of federal and international regulations in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys,” said Lt. j.g.
Erin Woods, Living Marine Resources Officer for Coast Guard Sector Key West. The Dusky Grouper is generally caught using long line fishing gear; this is also the case in Malta.
The Spanish say; DE la ma rel hero y DE la Terra El career, which means that the grouper (hero) is the tastiest animal found in the sea while the lamb (career) is the tastiest animal found on land. The grouper ’s biological features mean it is slow to reach sexual maturity and is often caught before it can spawn.
Their food resources, which mainly consist of octopus and other fish, have also been depleted due to overfishing. Groupers are slowly becoming more abundant in France, Spain, and Italy in Marine Protected Areas where fishing is banned completely.
Fish for tomorrow suggests that you avoid the Dusky Grouper due to its over exploitation and vulnerability. The tag would soon be surgically implanted into a Nassau grouper, a medium-sized fish, but Dr. Rick Ne meth, and his team at University of the Virgin Islands are pros.
I joined Ne meth and his team of three research technicians on a dive to tag Nassau grouper. Waves arched over the boat as I huddled behind the dashboard watching the island of St. Thomas disappear below the horizon.
Soon the vessel slowed to a crawl, and we arrived at the Grammar Bank, a reef south of St. Thomas, 25 miles from shore. Credit: Teresa L. CareyNemeth partnered with the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service to relaunch the Bring Back the Nassau Grouper campaign in April 2016.
It provided fishers with data collection kits to help Ne meth research the grouper population. If fishers accidentally catch a grouper in their traps, they save a piece of the fin for genetic studies, and record the size of the fish and where it was caught.
With that knowledge, Ne meth plans to predict how fishing could affect the population, and recommend ways to reduce threats to the Nassau grouper. Credit: Ben Areas research analyst Shaun Madison stood behind the wheel and navigated us from one fish trap to the next.
The two make a dynamic team, with Madison’s wild blond hair and uninhibited laughter balancing Ne meth’s quiet and serious disposition. Now we are seeing hundreds a day.” The team was focusing its studies on a newly formed spawning aggregation, a yearly gathering of fish that travel great distances for the sole purpose of reproduction.
Having just implanted an acoustic tag into a grouper, the researchers were concerned that if they tossed the fish back into the ocean, a shark might eat it as it swam down through the open water. So, Madison suited up in scuba diving gear to escort the fish back to the reef.
The sperm fertilizes the eggs in the cloudy burst that looks like a milkshake, swirled in a blender of activity. Fishers who set their traps in a spawning aggregation could catch a lot in a little amount of time, giving them the impression that grouper are more abundant than they really are.
Now that fishing for Nassau grouper is prohibited, Ne meth’s team believes they may be observing a population comeback. Many animals migrate en masse, such as the Leather back sea turtle or the African gray elephant, to feed or reproduce.