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Is It Illegal To Catch Grouper

author
David Lawrence
• Saturday, 05 December, 2020
• 8 min read

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.

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Contents

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. Gulf grouper prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk when it is less bright and more prey are available.

Adult gulf grouper are mainly found around rocky reefs, underwater mountains, and kelp beds. Gulf grouper are also likely protogynous hermaphroditic, which means that they mature as females and later transition into males.

Adult gulf grouper gather in large groups to reproduce once per year. 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.

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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. Maggie Marmoreal/For the Herald The Goliath grouper, the monster reef fish that can grow to 800 pounds and nearly disappeared in the 1970s, is off-limits for now.

On Thursday, 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 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

The commercial and recreational fishing seasons are closed from January through April to protect red grouper during their peak spawning period. Minimum size limits protect immature red grouper.

Year-round and/or seasonal area closures for commercial and recreational sectors to protect spawning groupers. Its massive size and slow growth (it takes five to seven years for a grouper to become sexually mature) has made it highly susceptible to pressure from commercial and recreational fishing, which has led to its status as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

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Recently, the FCC conducted a stock assessment of the grouper ’s numbers in Florida, and found it to be at much healthier levels than it was when first declared an endangered species. However, the study was rejected for use in federal waters by an independent panel of scientists due to its limited scope, which only included South Florida.

Due to the controversy around the issue, the FCC is hosting more than a dozen workshops to discuss the matter and to get a feel for public opinion. Currently, one idea on the table is to create a four-year paid lottery that would allow 100 people each year to harvest one Goliath grouper.

It would cost $300 to buy into, and the fish can only be caught by hook and line, with no commercial harvest or sale allowed. Scientists are skeptical that the Goliath grouper has recovered enough to allow it to be killed, even in a limited fashion.

Studies by Florida State University marine biologists in 2010 and 2011 found that the grouper is still being fished illegally and disagreed with anglers’ statements that the Goliath is a threat to their livelihood. Furthermore, they found that Goliath improve reef diversity rather than threaten it, countering a claim that has been made by proponents of an open fishery.

Regardless, anglers contend that they are competing with the grouper, saying that Goliath have snatched their catch from their lines as they were reeling them in. Smaller fish are dark brown overall, punctuated with coin-size pearly white spots on the sides.

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(Source: www.connecticutsaltwaterfishing.com)

A distinctive black, saddle-shaped blotch occurs on the caudal peduncle and extends down below the lateral line. Larger snowy groupers usually lose the white spots and caudal saddle and become dark brown with a slight coppery tint.

Snowy groupers can be found in the outer continental shelf of the South Atlantic Bight, which is characterized by ridges, terraces and precipitous cliffs. The species is distributed in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and the northern coast of Cuba.

Snowy grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites, spawning from May to June and releasing more than 2 million eggs. CLOSED Open Season: May 1 – August 31 Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the recreational Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met.

If an in-season closure were to be announced by NOAA Fisheries, all relevant information will be included here. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.

At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.

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Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.

Bottom longline is allowed only in depths 50 fathoms or more and only north of St. Lucie Inlet, Florida. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.

At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.

Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.

Best fishing practices tips information on hook types how-to videos This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed, and sold prior to the annual catch limit being reached and held in cold storage by a dealer.

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Sources
1 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/license/
2 gooutdoorsflorida.com - https://gooutdoorsflorida.com/
3 taxcollector.coj.net - https://taxcollector.coj.net/Licenses-Permits/Hunting-and-Fishing-Licenses.aspx
4 www.fws.gov - https://www.fws.gov/hunting/whatdo.html
5 www.big5sportinggoods.com - https://www.big5sportinggoods.com/store/community/Helpful+Hints/Fishing+Licenses