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Is It Illegal To Keep Goliath Grouper

author
Maria Johnson
• Wednesday, 21 October, 2020
• 9 min read

Maggie Marmoreal/For the Herald The goliathgrouper, 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.

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(Source: folioweekly.com)

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“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.

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(Source: www.flickr.com)

“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. Found nearshore around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.

Spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. CLOSED TO HARVEST OR POSSESSION IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC EEA (FEDERAL WATERS) SINCE 1990.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper. Note: Goliath grouper and Nassau grouper must be released by cutting the line and NOT removed from the water.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper. 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.

Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; 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.

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(Source: www.wildlifevoice.org)

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. Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; 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.

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. 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. They’ve raised enough concern that the FCC is now considering reopening the fishery, albeit in a limited fashion.

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 goliathgrouper.

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. 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.

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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.

On August 26th, Joshua Anyzeski caught the prohibited species, removing it from the water to take a picture. The picture circulated on social media, which tipped off officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Maddox sidelined after ‘close contact’ tests positive The Goliath grouper is totally protected from harvest and is recognized as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

So, seems like someone should be knocking on his door to present him with a ticket and huge fine for that :-) Sign in it really depends on where you live... I am guessing Florida, so check myfwc.com, but you first have to catch one.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering opening up a limited Goliath grouper season for the first time in nearly 30 years. It's gone,” said Dave Westley, owner of Lear's Economy Tackle in North Fort Myers.

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A slot is a designated minimum and maximum size that's used to ensure that the larger breeding population is not overfished. FCC staff proposed a maximum $300 tag and no harvest of the species during the spawning season, which runs from July through September.

The staff also recommended a slot of 47 to 67 inches, which means fish must measure between those two numbers in order to be kept legally. “Staff was directed to gather public input on a potential limited harvest of Goliath grouper and bring those comments back before the commission in late 2017,” Amanda Valley, with FCC, wrote in an email to The News-Press.

Westley remembers times when fishermen would carry Goliath grouper fillets in wheelbarrows and slice them up into tiny bits that would later be fried. The goal of the FCC proposal is to allow a limited fishing season that won't impact the rate of recovery the species has enjoyed over the past 20 years.

Florida made it illegal to keepGoliathgrouper in 1990, and the species was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered in 1994. They hunt and live near reefs and submerged ships and other man-made structures and are easily enticed by pretty much any type of bait.

Once found from North Carolina to Texas, this species now ranges from Florida to Brazil and throughout the Caribbean Sea, Goliath grouper are also susceptible to large events like red tide and seasonal cold fronts, according to FCC.

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(Source: www.change.org)

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a public input meeting regarding Goliath grouper management in Naples from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Collier County Public Library on Oct. 18 and from 5-8 p.m. at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte on Oct. 17. A Key West college student learned a hard lesson about Florida wildlife law this week, police said.

Joshua David Anyzeski, 18, was jailed Monday after state fish and wildlife officers said he removed a Goliath grouper from the water, so he could pose for a photo with it. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a Goliath grouper, booked into the Stock Island Detention Center and released the same day after posting a $7,500 bond.

A Key West college student got arrested after sharing this photo with friends in a group text. “The lagoon is a classroom space where we teach diving and marine science classes,” said Amber Ernst-Leonard, the college’s spokeswoman.

Anyzeski got in trouble after sending the photo of him holding the Goliath grouper to friends in a group text to brag about snagging the fish, according to the report. On Aug. 28, FCC investigators went to Anyzeski’s dorm room at the College of the Florida Keys to speak with him about the photo.

Asked if Anyzeski is in trouble with the school for the catch, Ernst-Leonard said the college does not comment on student disciplinary cases. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

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(Source: www.reddit.com)

The once common Nassau grouper (Epimetheus stratus) and goliathgrouper (E. Tamara) have been so depleted that they are under complete protection from the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. From 1997-2005, our researchers collaborated with Florida State University's Institute for Fishery Resource Ecology (Dr. Chris Koenig and Dr. Felicia Coleman) to monitor the status and recovery of goliathgrouper.

This goliathgrouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization. With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of goliathgrouper in both the Gulf of Mexico and more recently, the South Atlantic.

Posters created by the Center of Marine Conservation help disseminate information about our project and its requirements, highlighting our tagging study and the morphology of goliathgrouper. Given that these groupers were afforded protected status, researchers worked to utilize and develop novel non-lethal techniques to procure and analyze biological samples for life history information.

Researchers have also determined that soft dorsal rays hold promise for aging older fish (Marie et al., 2008). These casualties, resulting from red tide, gave our biologists a unique opportunity to collect a multitude of biological samples, without having to sacrifice healthy animals.

From these decomposing carcasses, biologists were able to record length for use in an age/length relationship, and were able to extract monoliths and remove dorsal spines and rays for comparison of hard parts in age and growth analysis. The sampling trip gave these biologists an opportunity to educate the curious beach goers about red tide and goliathgrouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees).

grouper goliath catch
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Attempts to evaluate the data needed to assess the status of these depleted stocks and develop rebuilding plans present unique challenges. In 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries convened a benchmark goliathgrouper assessment for the continental U.S. population.

This project would not have been possible without ongoing collaboration with researchers from Florida State University, Everglades National Park, and the recreational fishing and SCUBA diving communities.

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Sources
1 bassonline.com - https://bassonline.com/florida-styles-of-fishing/night-fishing/
2 florida-outdoors.com - http://florida-outdoors.com/article_night_fishing.htm
3 www.floridasportsman.com - http://www.floridasportsman.com/2020/10/20/how-to-fly-fish-at-night/
4 bullbuster.net - https://bullbuster.net/community/articles/how-to/fishing-at-night-in-south-florida