by Aeja Pinto

A large grouper, with an uncertain fate, inhabits our very oceans. It is aware that its species dwindles in population, but the grouper doesn't seem to understand that politics may hold the fate of its future. The Goliath Grouper has been protected in state and federal waters since 1990, but now things seem to be changing.

The Goliath Grouper is critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. With this in mind, it is perplexing to imagine that in this climate of “dying” oceans and bleaching coral reefs, the harvesting of the Goliath Grouper is in question at all.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the current rules of catching the Goliath Grouper are the following:

▪ “Harvest and possession has been prohibited in both state and federal waters off Florida since 1990.

▪ [Grouper] Must be immediately returned to the water free, alive and unharmed.

▪ Photographs can be taken but only during the active act of release. Photographs or any other activities such as measuring the fish should not delay release in any way.

▪ Large goliath groupers should be left in the water during release. The skeletal structure of large goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage. If a large goliath is brought on board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and will therefore be considered harvested.

▪ Removing smaller goliath groupers from the water to remove hooks is not necessarily a bad practice, but this process must be done with care, using proper fish handling techniques, and the fish must be returned to the water as expeditiously as possible.”

Goliath Grouper’s populations dwindled in the 1970s and 1980s and their numbers are just starting to increase. But now, there is a potential limited open season that could come into play, thus declining the Goliath’s population yet again. We can change that. Citizen activists, this is where I call you to act on behalf of this dwindling population. The Florida Fish and Wildlife is gathering public input on the future management and regulations regarding the Goliath Grouper. The fate of this species is in our hands. There are several hearings being held in which you can participate in the public forum as follows:

Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd. 5-8pm

Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive. Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave. 5-8pm

Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road. 5-8pm

Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N. Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St. 5-8pm

Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library - South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway 5-8pm

Oct. 25: Tallahassee, FWC Bryant Building, Room 272, 600 S. Meridian St. 6-9 p.m.

There is only one way in which the Goliath can prevail, and it requires our assistance. Join us in speaking out about protecting the fate of the Goliath Grouper. This time, Goliath shall prevail.

Science March Miami