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Is The Goliath Grouper Endangered

author
Earl Hamilton
• Wednesday, 07 October, 2020
• 7 min read

It lives in shallow tropical waters at small depths that range from 16 to 164 feet (5 – 50 meters) among coral and artificial reefs. The Atlantic goliathgrouper can grow until it reaches approximately 8.2 ft (2.5 m) long and it weighs about 790 lb (360 kg).

grouper goliath endangered florida critically protect save killing ocean mission
(Source: mission-blue.org)

Contents

Although the Atlantic goliathgrouper seems to be scary for its large size and even wide mouth, it is not extremely dangerous but it is courageous. Being fearless and delicious at the same time is not good for this fish as these two factors are the main reasons behind making it highly sought after by fishermen and thus harvesting it in large numbers.

Treating this fish in such a cruel way was the main reason behind making it endangered and this is why it was necessary to protect it and entirely ban harvesting it. The Atlantic goliathgrouper is fearless which means that it is not scared easily and this is why it attacks different creatures in the sea even divers and the 11 feet lemon sharks.

When you think of the largest fish in the ocean, images of sharks, marlins and even tuna probably come to mind first. Another one you’d be wise to start considering is the Atlantic goliathgrouper, a huge saltwater fish that leisurely swims in reefs and mangroves between North Carolina and Brazil, and also those along the West African coast.

Goliath groupers, which mostly feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, have been known to weigh in at over 700 pounds. Atlantic GoliathGrouper, by Albert KOK via Creative CommonsDuring a recent visit to the Georgia Aquarium, a guide was sharing interesting facts about the “Tropical Diver” exhibit.

This species is deemed critically endangered by the IUCN because of its reproductive issues (slow growth, late sexual maturity) and overfishing. Groups like Florida State University’s Coleman & Keening Laboratory are promoting mangrove protection and trying to shift the public’s perception of the goliathgrouper as being nothing more than a big, lazy nuisance.

grouper goliath florida endangered fish groupers scuba critically killing protect fishing mission diving underwater sea monster stearns walt
(Source: mission-blue.org)

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.

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.

Tissue samples were also removed and sent to the Florida Marine Research Institute, so they could evaluate the level of red tide toxin. 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).

goliath groupers grouper florida endangered critically protect killing mission mag stearns walt
(Source: mission-blue.org)

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. Goliath AAC Subscribe to continue reading.

The GoliathGrouper, Epimetheus Tamara, is the largest grouper found in the North Atlantic. The aggregation of large numbers of the fish in a small area during the spawning season attracted commercial and sports fishermen to the species.

With fishing no longer affecting its numbers, scientists searched for other potential threats to the goliathgrouper. Mosquito control measures and water drainage projects in the Everglades have both impacted heavily on the Florida mangrove swamps.

The loss of the waterways making up part of its nursery will not aid in the recovery of goliathgrouper numbers. A rapid increase in dinoflagellates of the species Karina breves is responsible for the marked color change of the sea.

grouper goliath giant fish shark endangered species massive most dangerous atlantic jewfish key largo diver know need types ocean
(Source: bestreviewof.com)

As well as changing the color of seawater, Karina breves produces a neurotoxin, called breve toxin, which is deadly to many fish. Scientists from National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) examine these fish to ascertain which species are threatened by red tide events.

Without our help in maintaining its environment the Atlantic goliathgrouper may join the dodo in extinction Among the many species threatened, my concern focuses on the GoliathGrouper whose habitat encompasses the entire US continental shelf.

Since a majority of people enjoys eating this species of fish and because of their abundance, they have provided a great source of income for fishermen, resulting in the GoliathGrouper becoming a harvest target for commercial and recreational fisheries. For example the relationship between sea predators and other small fish that depends on established habitats may be preventing the GoliathGrouper from surviving as in the past, however, the results of those issues are not known at this time.

Not only that, several organizations such as the NFS recognizes the declines in abundance of goliathgrouper and had put a great effort to provide additional consideration to manage the status of the species. The issue was at first locally because this fish is distributed from North Carolina through Texas along all the way from central east coast of Florida through the Gulf of Mexico.

According to National Marine Fisheries Service, “Both the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GM FMC) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SFMC) prohibited the harvest and possession of goliathgrouper in 1990.” In addition to those states, Florida State did likewise and then all other coastal states did the same, prohibiting the harvest of the Goliath, from North Carolina through Texas (MacKinnon et al. 43-48). Scientist should get involved directly with fisheries and explain to them the long term benefits by not harvesting the goliathgrouper.

grouper goliath florida endangered critically protect killing areas mission protected marine macwilliams wayne
(Source: mission-blue.org)

4 There are three major special interest groups in the issue of the conservation of the GoliathGrouper ; fishermen, conservationists (scientists) and the policymakers who are politicians. The GAP Good Practice guide asserts that one of the most complicated things to explain to fishermen is the long term benefits of conservation.

It further goes on to stress the importance of coming up with ways of convincing fishers to collaborate with science in resource conservation. The MSF CMA on the other hand assert that fishers and policymakers do need to respect the process of research and its results even in instances where they are inconsistent with expectations, or they are not as certain as hoped for (23-45).

The fishers’ arguments are mainly in form of economics as scientific studies in most instances put limits on the extent of their trade. 5 Taking into the account the various differences in sentiment between the fishermen, the policymakers and the scientists, it is hard to believe that they can find a common ground regarding the conservation of the GoliathGrouper.

For the fishermen a bigger catch of fish means more income while for the scientist this is endangerment of the species (MacKinnon et al. 78-95). The government on the other hand has a delicate act of balancing between the economic interests of the fishermen and the public good.

The law asserts that all the fish off the United States Coasts, the highly migratory species in the oceans, those dwelling on the continental shelf of the US, and all analogous species spawning the rivers and estuaries of the US are valuable and renewable resources which ought to be preserved for posterity. The law contended that; commercial fishing was a major source of employment and to the economy, international fishery agreements have proved ineffective in reducing or eradicating overfishing, fishery resources are finite yet renewable if a functional management authority is put in place.

goliath groupers endangered sharks critically grouper corals hope state shark mission
(Source: mission-blue.org)

According to the MS FCM (123-33) the law therefore under the Presidential Proclamation 5030 of March 10, 1983, enforced the right of exploration, exploitation, conservation and management of fish in the exclusive economic zone set up. It also agreed on the implementation of international agreements concerning the management of highly migratory fish species.

There is to be the establishment of Regional Fishery Management Councils which would be in charge of coordinating the social and economic needs of the public and government policy by drawing up plans. It is a matter of common knowledge that international fishing agreements have been highly ineffective in controlling overfishing.

The establishment of a fishing management authority is however not a new thing as such an idea can only work if proper enforcement policies are adhered to. The goals of the project are neither too ambitious nor too modest as they address the problems of conservation according to the most pressing prevailing circumstances.

The setting up of regional fishery management councils while laudable may force opposition from the fishing stakeholders who may not like interference in their affairs (NFS 33-35). The allowance for all stakeholder participation though may make this idea workable though it may slow down the process of formulation and implementation due to disagreements.

While these policy interventions may improve the current situation more needs to be done in order to achieve more concrete and long term solutions. Weeksdayshoursminutes secondsOrder now8 In order to make the policy workable a number of changes need to be introduced into the bill; the setting up of an exclusive zone could negatively impact international cooperation concerning fishing and as such more detailed discussions should be held with other international partners, international agreements should be entered into only with countries which have mutual interest if they are to be enforced, the regional fish management councils need to be streamlined if decision-making is to be made faster, The establishing of optimum levels for fisheries needs to be revised as science is not exact and the setting up of optimum levels could endanger fish species.

grouper goliath endangered
(Source: sciencephoto.com)

The fact that this is an election year would also make the Republicans warm up to the idea as Americans are increasingly environmental conscious. Opposition though might come form some members from states which traditionally have large fishing industries such as Florida and Alaska.

In order to improve the perception of this issue on the political arena politicians and the public need top be educated and informed on how the policy is for the good of all and not supposed to target the livelihood of some people (MacKinnon et al. 56-63).

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Sources
1 theintrepidangler.com - http://theintrepidangler.com/100-miles-out-offshore-grouper-snapper-fishing-southwest-florida/
2 www.theguardian.com - https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2014/aug/21/huge-fish-eats-shark-off-florida-coast-video
3 igfa.org - https://igfa.org/2020/06/16/descending-devices-required-in-south-atlantic-to-help-snapper-grouper/
4 floridasportfishing.com - https://floridasportfishing.com/beer-battered-mystic-grouper/
5 fishingstatus.com - http://fishingstatus.com/fishing/species/fish/indexid/858408
6 anglr.com - https://anglr.com/fishing-blog/tag/grouper/
7 floridasfinestfishing.com - https://floridasfinestfishing.com/tag/grouper/
8 landsendmarina.com - https://landsendmarina.com/blog/2013/08/26/catch-gag-grouper-around-tampa-bay/