Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to allow harvest of up to 200 goliath groupers
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Three decades after being placed on a list banning the harvest and possession of goliath grouper, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering a plan to allow a limited number of fish to be harvested from the waters of the state.
The committee will examine on October 6 a proposal to authorize up to 200 fishing licenses per year for the goliath grouper.
“Currently, access to the goliath resource is provided by catch-and-release fishing and diving ecotourism opportunities, but requests to reopen harvest have increased in recent years as the population rebuilds. “, Jessica McCawley, director of the commission’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. , advised the commissioners in a memo ahead of next month’s meeting.
Under the proposal, applicants for the “limited and highly regulated harvest” from 2023 would have to pay $ 10 to participate in a lottery from which names would be drawn for fishing licenses of $ 500. Harvest would take place annually from March 1 to May 31 in state waters outside of Southeast Florida, from Palm Beach County south to the Atlantic coast of Monroe County.
Fish are an ecotourism draw for dive operators in this region. Never listed as endangered, the goliath grouper was removed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s list of special concern in 2006 and its list was changed from “critically endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2018 by the Independent International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The Goliath grouper, which can reach 800 pounds and over 8 feet in length, has been harvested in state waters since the late 1800s. The largest goliath grouper caught in Florida waters was a 680 fish. pounds caught off Fernandina Beach in 1961. In addition to overfishing, the species is susceptible to large-scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tide blooms.
“This proposal will provide users with additional access opportunities, protect intensive diving ecotourism areas, and provide researchers with the necessary biological data while allowing the population to continue to rebuild,” McCawley wrote. “This approach would allow FWC to continue to manage this fishery for a diversity of values and to recognize the important role of the goliath in the ecosystem.