Goliath Grouper Conservation
Scientists and conservation experts oppose decision by FWC
After more than 30 years of protection, on March 3, 2022, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a recreational harvest of Goliath Grouper in state waters beginning Spring 2023, allowing 200 fish to be harvested per year. However, we (myself, Dr. Felicia Coleman, and Dr. Chris Koenig) and the broader scientific community hold that FWC has not made a viable case for opening a fishery of any type for Goliath Grouper, and so this approval is completely without merit and works in opposition to wildlife conservation that this agency is responsible for. The best-available science simply does not support reopening this species to harvest, and in doing so this move threatens the recovery of this species. The pressure on the Commission to do so is mostly from misinformed and anecdotal observations from a small group of stakeholders, and ignored are the majority of stakeholders against a lethal harvest because they benefit from this animal staying alive and continuing their recovery. We need to do better if we want to stop the continued erosion of our wildlife and ecosystems. We need to use the best-available science in management decision making. See below for the letter we submitted to the Commission prior to the October, 2021 meeting where a limited harvest was proposed, which outlines major flaws in FWC's proposed harvest that was subsequently approved.
FWC Commission Once Again Ignores Science and Proceeds With a Dangerous Option - see our open letter (below) endorsed by top fisheries and conservation experts
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is responsible for managing Florida's fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of the people. Decisions should rely heavily on the best available science, yet at the last commission meeting of 12 May 2021 the commissioners brushed aside over twenty years of research, mostly by Florida State University researchers (Dr. Christopher Koenig, Dr. Felicia Coleman, and myself), and the endorsement of this research by over 90 science experts. The issue in front of them was whether or not to open a fishery for the vulnerable Atlantic Goliath Grouper in Florida state waters, despite continued federal protection. The species has been protected by state and federal governments since 1990 after near extinction in the United States. The commissioners ignored our efforts to inform them of the best available science, and that this fishery should remain closed because of great uncertainty surrounding their recovery. They decided instead to push their hidden political agenda to proceed with their proposal to open a limited fishery.
Reasons to keep the fishery closed: (1) recruitment to adult populations is limited by lack of suitable juvenile habitat due to mangrove destruction, polluted South Florida estuaries, red tide, and cold events; (2) high mercury concentrations in fish tissues are crippling older Goliaths and are extremely dangerous to humans that consume them, especially young children; (3) contrary to many fisher perceptions, the native Goliaths are an integral part of the reef community, not destructive to that community; and (4) Goliaths are much more valuable to Florida’s dive ecotourism industry than they are to any fishing interests.
See our letter to the commissioners here where we describe why we oppose this fishery, which was endorsed by over 90 top fish/fisheries scientists in the US and other countries, but ignored by FWC.