The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission wants more research for approving the harvest of previously endangered goliath groupers. But, many against the decision say the science does not back up the reasoning.
Jessica McCawley is the Marine Fisheries Manager for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. She explains the current state of the once endangered goliath grouper species.
“So goliaths are recovering and becoming more abundant in parts of Florida, especially on artificial reefs. While they opportunistically take anglers, snappers, and groupers, these species represent a small portion of their diet with them primarily consuming baitfish and crustaceans. There are many unknowns in the life history and biology, especially maximum age, which makes it challenging to determine the status of the fishery,” McCawley says.
The recent growth in goliath grouper populations has made the FWC consider various ways of managing the species, which includes limited harvesting.
But, Tom Ingram, CEO of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, says the science behind goliath groupers is not solid enough to support the need to harvest.
“There’s no scientifically solid stock assessment for goliaths, which is needed to open this species. So DEMA favors maintaining the current prohibition on harvest and possession of goliath grouper in Florida. We believe that FWC, or NOA, or another appropriate organization should undertake another thorough stock assessment of the goliath grouper to include research on age prior to opening the fishery at all, or even considering it,” Ingram says.
Advocates for the goliath grouper also worry Florida’s tourism industry will take a hit.
On Thursday, the FWC commission said they’d focus on further research for now.