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Urgent Call for Action: Goliath Grouper Harvest

(Image by Alan C Egan)

The Florida Wildlife Commission is holding a meeting tomorrow (3 March) to finalize their proposal to allow a “harvest” of the iconic Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara). These animals are classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN, and the proposal seeks to reverse protections that have allowed the species to avoid extinction. In addition, the fish are saturated with toxic metals, making their meat unfit for human consumption.

If you can attend in person, the details of the meeting are here. Alternatively, please email the commissioners. A template for the letter is below, feel free to personalize it as you see fit.

Dear Commissioners,

I note that you are considering a proposal that would allow a harvest of the iconic endemic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara).

I would urge you to reject this proposal.

My reasons are as follows:

There is no scientifically valid survey of the current fish stock. The current proposal is based solely on anecdotal information from parties with an interest in allowing the harvest. Until a valid study exists, there can be no reasonable grounds for allowing a harvest.
The animals are aggregating in Florida’s water to breed. Hence this cull specifically targets the adult breeding population, critical for the species’ survival.
In 1994, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the goliath grouper to the list of critically endangered species. Despite protections over the years, the goliath grouper remains listed as critically endangered. There is no evidence to support that their numbers have increased sufficiently to ensure the species’survival.
The animals’ meat has been shown to be unsafe for human consumption. This calls into question the motivation of any planned harvest. If the goal is to allow for artisanal fishing for consumption, this would be a foolhardy policy, given the danger to the public health this would encourage. The proposed “harvest” implies that the grouper that have been caught will be used in some way. This is not and cannot be the case.
The proposal appears to suggest that catch and release angling of Goliath Grouper “at spawning aggregations sites in Atlantic state waters” will be allowed. I am sure that the commissioners are aware that catch and release of large fish results in a mortality of around 43%. In addition, the burden of policing and enforcing the catch and release policy will reduce the resources available to the Commission.

There are no scientific rationale to justify the removal of the protections that the species currently enjoys. In addition, there is no commercial reason to justify any “harvest.” Once again, I urge you to vote with science and in the interests of the marine environment you are pledged to protect.

Tagged: florida, goliath groupers, harvest

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