Take a Stand for the Goliath Grouper

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

The goliath grouper was once nearly driven to extinction. Help save them from being killed for profit!

The goliath groupers that make their homes in and around Florida's coral reefs can grow to 800 pounds 1. These massive fish have few natural predators, and swim through the shallow waters without hesitation, which has historically made them easy prey for fishermen and divers with spearguns.

Divers once harvested these fish using powerheads on spearguns, boaters pulled them in with winches on mounted on gunwales. Meanwhile, fish houses paid about 40 cents per pound for the goliath grouper, just $120 for a 300-pound fish2.

The goliath grouper was nearly driven to extinction until the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission in 1990 banned the killing and possession of goliath groupers. Federal fisheries agencies also imposed bans, giving the fish protections in both state and federal waters3.

Goliath grouper spawning aggregations are forming again off the east coast of Florida. It's the only place in the world where these fish can thrive in significant numbers, as juveniles in mangroves, and as adults in reefs, solitary or forming spawning aggregations. In late summer, the goliath groupers attract loads of tourists who in turn boost local economies4.

Commercial interests have since complained the groupers are overeating and responsible for declining fish and lobster stocks, when overfishing has mush more to do with dwindling seafood catches. Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has picked a side on this issue despite a lack of scientific evidence, and is now allowing the first catch of goliath groupers in more than three decades.

The goliaths will be harvested each year with permits awarded through a lottery.

Florida's  proposal would allow the killing of 100 goliath groupers per year for 4 years, for a total of 400 goliath groupers. This will destroy most of the regional breeding population of goliath groupers, the culmination of 27 years of conservation management effort5.

The Florida FWC has suggested charging $300 per fish killed, while recreational divers pay around $100 for one goliath grouper sighting4. That means a single goliath grouper can generate as much as $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime for the local economy. Likewise, one spawning aggregation of several goliath groupers could generate as much as $500,000 a year for one dive business. Leaving the goliath groupers alive is a seemingly much more lucrative alternative to $300 and a dead fish.

Help us save the goliath grouper by stopping the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's misguided hunting lottery. Sign the petition and take a stand for these magnificent fish!

More on this issue:

  1. NOAA Fisheries, "Atlantic Goliath Grouper."
  2. Ed Killer, TCPalm (14 May 2021), "FWC debates goliath grouper harvest in Florida state waters."
  3. Terry Spencer, Associated Press (9 May 2021), "Florida weighs allowing limited harvest of goliath grouper."
  4. Mission Blue, Sylvia Earle Alliance (4 July 2017), "Protect The Critically Endangered Goliath Grouper From Killing In Florida."
  5. David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel (10 September 2021), Plan for killing goliath grouper released by Florida."
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The Petition:

To the members of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission,

The decision to offer fishing licenses for the goliath grouper is based on false assumptions and needs to be immediately reversed.

The species has bounced back significantly since conservation efforts were first implemented in the 1990s, but they still have far to go before fishing should be considered.

Goliath groupers are showing up at spawning aggregation sites, and the SCUBA divers that visit them bring a much-needed lifesaver to small businesses in Florida. A live goliath grouper is far more valuable than a dead one, generating as much as $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime for the local economy. And living goliaths will keep forming spawning aggregations and contributing to the Florida economy for as long as they live.

I demand you halt the planned lottery of fishing licenses for goliath grouper immediately, and protect this mighty species from extinction.


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