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Petition: protect goliath groupers!


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#1 echeng

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 11:38 PM

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Goliath groupers, which were listed until 2006 as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), may soon lose their protection from fishing due to recovering population levels and pressure from fisherman. Divers have long enjoyed the company of these, huge, friendly fish, and if taking goliath groupers becomes legal once again, population levels may fall quickly.

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Please help us to keep goliath groupers in the list of protected species by signing our petition!

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#2 drako

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 04:53 AM

Awesome animals but not always friendly.

#3 Nakedwithoutcamera

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 06:20 AM

Awesome animals but not always friendly.

Yes. Sometimes they are very shy. And with good reason.
Signed!! I dove with them in Jupiter and West Palm last month. They are awesome.
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#4 Walt Stearns

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 06:24 AM

I have done hundreds of dives all over Florida with these fish, I have yet run into a mean one.

Although they are oftentimes in inquisitive and will approach a diver, they are more times shy to easily intimidated. To spear fishermen they highly vulnerable in that they stay close to a chosen territory and retreat to a favored hole rather than run, making them as accessible as shooting a dairy cow. Unless you are a fan of "Canned Hunts" there no sport in that.

Also keep in mind that with the exception of Florida, this fish has been almost entirely fished out throughout their former ranger in the Tropical Atlantic from the Caribbean on down through both Central & South America, and therefore critically endangered. Yes it is easy to say Florida is overly abundant with them – after all, a half dozen 80 to 250 pound fish on a particular wreck or spot on a reef will get your attention faster than a school of a thousand fish the size of your hand, Florida is retains the key breeding population left. So, should we keep it or throw it away.

If you are for keeping them, sign the petition. But, if you really want to make an impact in keeping this fish protected in Florida waters, attend the FWC meeting this December 10th, 2009, which will be taking place in Clewiston, Florida. Here is the link for information - http://www.myfwc.com...N/Comm_2009.htm

In addition to Goliath Grouper, this public meeting/workshop will also be discussing the future of Shark Fishing, in which there is an on going discussion at getting the Lemon Shark moved to protected status in State Waters. The success of both campaigns will largely be determined by how many of us attend and speak for these marine animals behalf. Having been in the trenches for Goliath Groupers for the past few years, and now currently in the fight to have Lemon Sharks protected as well, I will say petitions are useful, but going face to face with FWC Commissioners and Staff have the greatest impact.

I look forward to seeing as many of you there. PLEASE ATTEND THE MEETING DEC 10TH!

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#5 drako

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 09:10 AM

Yes. Sometimes they are very shy. And with good reason.
Signed!! I dove with them in Jupiter and West Palm last month. They are awesome.


What I meant by that is I had one try; not necessarily "attack me".
Like Sharks they are predators.
The specific time it happen was when I was lobstering. I did not have my wits about me and should have left the place where the grouper was.

That being said they are majestic.

#6 Ktay1111

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 05:05 AM

What I meant by that is I had one try; not necessarily "attack me".
Like Sharks they are predators.
The specific time it happen was when I was lobstering. I did not have my wits about me and should have left the place where the grouper was.

That being said they are majestic.


While I am for protecting our marine resources, there are times when protecting a species goes too far. I personally don't think we should keep a blanket protection for goliath groupers throughout Florida. On the West Coast they are almost a nuisance to fishermen and i see several whenever I dive a bridge or pier.

Please don't attack me for making this point. I still think they should have protection, but not such extensive protection in areas where they have recovered as they have along Southwest Florida.
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#7 Walt Stearns

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 07:57 AM

To answer Kstay111's statement.“I personally don't think we should keep a blanket protection for goliath groupers throughout Florida. On the West Coast they are almost a nuisance to fishermen and i see several whenever I dive a bridge or pier.”

Given the marine topographical nature of Florida’s Gulf Coast having very little natural bottom structures, of course you will see this fish, often times more than a couple at a time on wrecks and under a pier. Ask yourself this, if given a choice, which would you rather live in – a mansion or a tent.

For now, the protection for this fish is very much needed, as populations throughout the rest of the range (Bahamas, Caribbean, Central and South America) are plummeting like a stone – this coming field biologist that I have personally received reports from. Second, it took 19 years for these fish to get as far as they have here in Florida, only because of the stringent management that has been in place since 1990. I am well aware divers and fisherman encounter them in some areas of the state with a degree of abundance, but that still is not the case in other parts of Florida.

I am a realist about there will be a day where this fish will be accessible to fishermen, and it will be very closely regulated, but that day is not here yet. The propose culling (because that is what it is, not for scientific research) of 400 Goliaths is strictly political move to appease a group of people who have been beating on the FWC Commissioners. It is knee jerk move. The scientific community have most of the data, but they haven’t been able to assimilate all of it. Furthermore, from what I got from FWC fishery staff, they are in no way ready, or able to handle delivery of even a fraction of the propose number of fish the Gulf Council is trying green light with the Sate and Feds. So where would these fish be taken, most likely the nearest seafood market. So much for their Scientific collection campaign.

Edited by Walt Stearns, 13 October 2009 - 11:35 AM.


#8 MIKE POWELL

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 09:31 AM

I'm all for "culling" FISHERMEN for the sake of the Goliath Grouper ! :P

I'm trying not to attack, BUT what does being a nuisance to fishermen mean? Should we have open season on manatee because they're a nuisance to boaters?

I live on the west coast of Fl. and enjoy diving with the Goliath Grouper and I'm a fisherman along with my friends (one of which is a commercial Grouper Fisherman) who seem to have no problem with the GG being a nuisance.

EAT MORE CHICKEN! :)

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#9 ebonites

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 03:14 PM

".....The propose culling (because that is what it is, not for scientific research) of 400 Goliaths is strictly political move to appease a group of people who have been beating on the FWC Commissioners. It is knee jerk move. The scientific community have most of the data, but they haven't been able to assimilate all of it. Furthermore, from what I got from FWC fishery staff, they are in no way ready, or able to handle delivery of even a fraction of the propose number of fish the Gulf Council is trying green light with the Sate and Feds. So where would these fish be taken, most likely the nearest seafood market. So much for their Scientific collection campaign."

I'll lend some more credibility to Walt Sterns' claim:

When the GG issue surfaced the first time around, I got in touch with Walt & wrote up the original petition for DPG that still seems to be getting used (with some transformations). Anyway, in doing research to see which force was pushing this legislation, I wandered over to the "dark side" to see who/what was driving this.

The following notes comes from trolling spearboard.com at that time (be sure not to miss the science-based mentality of the last mastermind):

http://www.spearboar...Grouper Harvest
[bold fonts are mine]

Interested In A Limited Goliath Grouper Harvest? Here's How We Get One:

post #1

A fellow dive club member just called me last week about an acquaintance he has with a very high ranking official in the FWC. In their conversations, this person has expressed the desire to get diver-based info on goliath grouper populations, and behavior around the state. He wants to take this info to form a springboard for a very possible limited harvest sometime in the near future.

I just got off the phone with this gentleman today, and although he declined that he be identified due to not wanting to get barraged with phone calls/emails, he is very interested in what we have to say. Ultimately, both he, and several other key personnel would like for a limited harvest along the lines of the alligator lottery to occur. A limited number of kill tags would be given out to those that apply, and for a fee would allow that fisherman to harvest a goliath. This is provided that the fisherman report the info regarding the catch, and surrender the filleted carcass for scientific study.

What he asking is for anecdotal info, photos, and video. Please reply on this thread in non-inflammatory manner, and provide your feedback. I am going to email him the link to this thread so that he, and his associates at the FWC may read, and see. They want to know:
*Where are you seeing them
*How many
*What size
*Their behaviors especially if they are aggressive
*What you have seen them eat
*If you have seen increase in their populations
*Anything else pertinent to determining whether a limited harvest can work.

Let's represent our spearfishing community, and flex our muscle in a constructive way. Thanks.

AJ Suarez

*****

post#3

AJ- This idea sure sounds farmiliar...Wait!! I know. It was my idea. And it is moving forward. Good to hear it from another perspective.
The Goliath harvest was discussed at the reef fish advisory panel meeting and also at the last Gulf Council Meeting.
The FRA is on it. Let's all put up some information here. When the time comes, I'll let you all know where to direct your emails and phone calls.
If you haven't joined the FRA, now is the time.
To review, the Fishing Rights Alliance is:
For moving the longlines out to 50 fathoms (at least)
For equal treatment of spearguns as fishing tackle
For the limited harvest of Goliath Grouper
Responsible for SAVING YOUR HOGFISH LIMITS
Against the EXTREME reduction of the bag limit for Red grouper due to its disproportionate impact on recreational anglers.

JOIN THE FRA TODAY!!!
Join the Fishing Rights Alliance

******

[Also, response from: http://www.spearboar...ead.php?t=47996]

Does everyone know that any moderator has the capability to run an IP search and find out who and where the posts are coming from?

Is everyone aware that this website is monitored each and every day by State and Federal law enforcement officials?
Is everyone aware that it is read by members of the Gulf Council and the South Atlantic Council?
Is everyone aware that it is read by the Florida Willdlife commisioners?
Is everyone aware that it is read by the National Marine Fisheries Service?
Is everyone aware it is read every single day by members of the Ocean Conservancy and other environmental extremist groups who are constantly trying to find ammunition to use against the sport of Spearfishing??
Does everyone know that Spearboard posts have already been used to tarnish spearfisherman and the sport!

PLEASE! Think about what you post!! Spearboard is not some little place that you can be anonymous and chat with a couple buddies anymore.
Its read worldwide by a great many people, many of which can effect the sport of Spearfishing a great deal.

WWW.SPEARFISHINGSPUC.ORG
WWW.DIVEFSDA.COM

***

Re: The Law may hunt you down for showing illegal fish activity on the Internet!
Quote:
Originally Posted by inletsurf
Save your gay ass moaning for the douche freediving forums and man the f**k up if you want to play over here, because this forum here ain't nothing but guys legally killing fish and enjoying every minute of it, from the shot, to the blood spatter on the gunnel. You hypocritical, judgemental douche bags from the west coast that have a problem with this post can suck this big 'ol florida d**k because thats how we roll. Open wide, bitches.
Kick ass bro!!!

#10 Steve Williams

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 04:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by inletsurf
Save your gay ass moaning for the douche freediving forums and man the f**k up if you want to play over here, because this forum here ain't nothing but guys legally killing fish and enjoying every minute of it, from the shot, to the blood spatter on the gunnel. You hypocritical, judgemental douche bags from the west coast that have a problem with this post can suck this big 'ol florida d**k because thats how we roll. Open wide, bitches.
Kick ass bro!!!


It is responses from gentlemen like this that would lead me to believe there are probably far more than 400 of these fish already being taken illegally today. Is there any scientific data the folks who think these fish should be protected can point to? Do the folks in Florida have any data they can take to the FWC meeting in Dec? Hopefully it won't turn into a contest to see who can shout the loudest.

I would offer that this has implications far beyond the grouper. If we can't protect a critical species in our own waters from folks who want to kill them for fun, how do we hold up our heads when we speak to the people in Japan or Palua or ....... who argue for their cultural imperative?

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#11 Walt Stearns

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 04:22 PM

Thank you gentlemen. It's nice to know there are those out there who see the big picture.

#12 ebonites

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 08:18 PM

I would offer that this has implications far beyond the grouper. If we can't protect a critical species in our own waters from folks who want to kill them for fun, how do we hold up our heads when we speak to the people in Japan or Palua or ....... who argue for their cultural imperative?
Steve

Steve

I'm glad that this slob's blood lust grabbed your attention, but your concluding implication of "how do we hold up our heads?" is something that I'd ask you to further consider. Our assumptions are sometimes so familiar to us that they can escape detection as fitting a harmful pattern. I'm not saying this is you personally; but I hear variations of this so often that I think it should be addressed. If this "pot calling the kettle black" stance remains a prevalent attitude, then we're not just stuck - we're screwed. Whether by spear, hook, or net; unsustainable acquisition is still the operating principle and our oceans are slated for functional extinction in less than 40 years.

Nearly all nations can easily be condemned for their own citizens' atrocities against nature, but claiming membership into some collective national guilt as a reason to postpone positive individual action becomes a form of consent that condones more devastation.

Any meaningful stance regarding species preservation, stewardship, etc. shouldn't be influenced by your nation's acts. We're global citizens first. Each person's actions have to originate as a member of nothing more than as a member of humankind - a species capable of consideration for the greater good - before any consideration of nationality. Everyone has an equal entitlement to safeguard the land and oceans from any bullying predators who set themselves up as deciders of any wild creature's fate.

Whether protecting these still threatened Florida Goliaths or Palau's Bumpheads and Napoleons...these animals don't check passports; they just want and need to live. Any cultural imperative is trumped by the moral imperative for a species right to continue.

Edited by ebonites, 13 October 2009 - 10:37 PM.


#13 Steve Williams

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 09:40 PM

Everyone has an equal entitlement to safeguard the land and oceans from any bullying predators who set themselves up as deciders of any wild creature's fate.

Whether protecting these still threatened Florida Goliaths or Palau's Bumpheads and Napoleons...these animals don't check passports; they just want and need to live. Any cultural imperative is trumped by the moral imperative for a species right to continue.


Hi Edward,
Thanks for caring. I was thinking of the collective "we". The organizational "we". The groups of likeminded people be it Save our Seas or Wild Aid or any of the others who as our emissaries attempt to send conservation guidance to places like Palau. I think the eventual outcome of the Grouper conversation speaks directly to credibility. "We" have told these people "do what I say, not what I do" so often it doesn't surprise me when they choose their own moral imperative to survive and feed their families. It's an entirely other thing when people kill endangered animals for sport.

I'm pretty sure we're at least singing from the same hymnal, you and I, if not exactly on the same page. I occasionally get a chance to talk to kids here and show them underwater images. One day two years ago a young man asked me which ocean a particular picture came from. My answer was, "There is only one ocean son, and it's going to be your job to protect it" under my breath I was thinking, I hope there is something left for you to protect.

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#14 Walt Stearns

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 04:03 AM

Edward, you are partly correct in your statement regarding protecting threatened species. Many these animals don't check passports; they just want and need to live. Any cultural imperative is trumped by the moral imperative for a species right to continue. That is especially true for high migratory species such as tuna, billfish, sharks, marine mammals. Bottom dwellers like Goliaths will pretty much live out their entire life in one region. Distribution of the species like that are determined by that fish's fecundity (more precise, ability to produce large quantity of eggs each spawning period). The same reason/method in how lion fish have spread so rapidly from the waters of North Carolina to the Caribbean.

But is also correct in that "we" in the collective, organizational sense also need to set examples in conservation methods and management if you plan to sell the concept to other nations. People like hearing/seeing success stories. When they see you do it, and it's more than just working but turning things around like Florida's snook fisheries management, and the Fed's closer on Goliaths, then they are more affirm to believe they can do this too species like Palau's Bumpheads, Napoleons, etc.

Edited by Walt Stearns, 14 October 2009 - 02:38 PM.


#15 echeng

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 04:53 PM

Hello, readers. We could use some more help getting this petition signed to reach our 1000 signature goal. If you're members of local clubs, can you spread the news? Maybe someone can bring the signature list to the meeting in December...
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#16 .Greg

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 07:05 PM

Thank you gentlemen. It's nice to know there are those out there who see the big picture.


Hi Walt,

I consider myself a conservationist and Goliath Groupers are one of my favorite fish when diving in Florida.

However, after living and diving for many years in the lower Keys, the "big picture" would have to include a study on the impact of continuing to protect an apex predator combined with added pressures on other species.

Years ago the GG's declined severely and their protection did an excellent job of bringing them back. I don't think a limited collection would be the end of the world for a couple of reasons.

First, their numbers have increased significantly.

Second, they do have a dramatic impact on the reefs where they live.

There is a definite decline in the number of fish on a reef when you have multiple resident GG's move in. This is not a hypothesis, I have seen it first hand on a couple of favorite dive spots.

Years ago fishermen were not harvesting GG's and the reefs did just fine, but there was also not a massive harvesting of other game fish at the same time.

A continued complete protection of such an apex predator might have a negative impact on other game fish species because of the added pressure from fishermen.

Having witnessed the rise in GG population for years and the related impact on the rest of the reef, I would never sign a petition against harvesting 400 fish. If it was a complete lifting of protection, count me in because GG's are just too voracious, inquisitive and friendly to survive on their own against fishermen.

Edited by .Greg, 26 October 2009 - 11:47 PM.


#17 Walt Stearns

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 10:40 AM

Greg I am sure you see a lot of Goliath Groupers having been living and diving lower Keys for many years. To make a statement that the decline in the number of fish on a reef where multiple resident GG's have moved is purely speculative at best.

As a South Florida resident as far back as 1963, started scuba diving in 1975, use to spearfish (back when I did use spearfish) throughout the Keys, Southern Gulf of Mexico and up in Palm Beach County where I live now, I have seen “a lot of Goliath Groupers” in that time. In fact, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, before the fish had become highly targeted, it was common place to drop down on a wreck or rock pile in the Gulf and find not only a bunch of Goliaths, but plenty of species of groupers and snapper, as well as few lobster.

The real answer to the decline in fish populations is US my friend. More people are utilizing the resources in both commercial and recreational forms of fishing than ever before, not to mention Florida’s growing population hasn’t been a big help in the right direction either. Hence the reason I hung my gun in 84.

Now for the "big picture." Goliath grouper have all but disappeared from the Bahamas, Caribbean Island range, and continue to drop like a stone throughout the central American and South American coasts. Right behind them is the rest of their kin – grey, black, Nassau, tiger, etc. There has and still is on going study as to what goliaths eat, as well as how much.

As for a study on the impact of continuing to protect this predator, guess what, there are still ongoing studies of this fishes natural history, which includes to what goliaths actually eat. The surprise there is it is often not what you think. This I am aware of in that I am still connected to those who are doing it.

By the way, the same Gulf Council that would like to see the allowance to harvest 400 goliath groupers is also looking at changing the current laws regarding the use of fish traps in Florida waters.

#18 .Greg

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 08:02 PM

To make a statement that the decline in the number of fish on a reef where multiple resident GG's have moved is purely speculative at best.


At least 2 patch reefs I know of had tons of fish for more than 7 years. In both cases after GG's took up residence, the decline in the fish was such to the point we finally quit going back after more than a year of continually checking it out. BTW, these were not spots targeted by fisherman or tourists. When you live in the keys a long time you find a lot of "private" spots so to speak.

However, if you read my post carefully I am not making any scientific claims, my main point was that they should do more studies to know exactly what the impact is.

The real answer to the decline in fish populations is US my friend.


Please re-read my post carefully, in at least three places I mention it is US my friend.

Years ago fishermen were not harvesting GG's and the reefs did just fine, but there was also not a massive harvesting of other game fish at the same time.

A continued complete protection of such an apex predator might have a negative impact on other game fish species because of the added pressure from fishermen.

Having witnessed the rise in GG population for years and the related impact on the rest of the reef, I would never sign a petition against harvesting 400 fish. If it was a complete lifting of protection, count me in because GG's are just too voracious, inquisitive and friendly to survive on their own against fishermen.

#19 Walt Stearns

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 06:19 AM

At least 2 patch reefs I know of had tons of fish for more than 7 years. In both cases after GG's took up residence, the decline in the fish was such to the point we finally quit going back after more than a year of continually checking it out. BTW, these were not spots targeted by fisherman or tourists. When you live in the keys a long time you find a lot of "private" spots so to speak.

However, if you read my post carefully I am not making any scientific claims, my main point was that they should do more studies to know exactly what the impact is.

Please re-read my post carefully, in at least three places I mention it is US my friend.

Years ago fishermen were not harvesting GG's and the reefs did just fine, but there was also not a massive harvesting of other game fish at the same time.

A continued complete protection of such an apex predator might have a negative impact on other game fish species because of the added pressure from fishermen.

Having witnessed the rise in GG population for years and the related impact on the rest of the reef, I would never sign a petition against harvesting 400 fish. If it was a complete lifting of protection, count me in because GG's are just too voracious, inquisitive and friendly to survive on their own against fishermen.


Greg, you see a lot of Goliaths in the Lower Keys. People diving the wrecks between Naples and Tampa see a lot fish on the wrecks - of course the rest of the sea floor in the region is nearly as flat as a pancake. In upper Palm Beach County (Jupiter and Juno beach) we see a lot of fish. Go south of Boynton Beach on down through the Upper and Middle Keys people find very few of this fish. Go north of Tampa on the Gulf side, or Stuart on the Atlantic side, the numbers of goliath found there drop exponentially each mile you go. Go out side of Florida, there are very few places where this fish is found at all. See my point here.

As for “Private” spots, there is almost no such animal left in South Florida anymore. For every place you think you have to your own, there is a least half a dozen people who know where it is too. You see, some of the people I work with on both the Goliath grouper and lemon shark research projects are ex-commercial fishermen. The information they have shared, well, I will put it this way, they know not only how to find it, but also how to get at these resources very effectively – if they were still in that line of work.

As for there should be more studies to know exactly what the impact this fish is, or is not having on its environment, is far more complicated than you are aware of. There are number of studies on this fish, snook, snapper, general reef fish, lemon sharks, etc., that are still on going. As one scientist, Dr. Gruber pointed out, there is a lifetime of data that can be collected on any one thing, the problem is the funding, the manpower and most of all time which no one, including the fish have much of. As a defense, commercial fishermen scream for an up dated Stock Assessment every time there is talk of setting new laws or regulations regarding what they can and can not take.

Yes, years ago fishermen were not harvesting GG's and the reefs did just fine, but there was also not a massive harvesting of other game fish at the same time.

A continued complete protection of such an apex predator might have a negative impact on other game fish species because of the added pressure from fishermen. That can also be true, but first you have to the matter of base lines.

Having witnessed the rise in GG population for years and the related impact on the rest of the reef, I would never sign a petition against harvesting 400 fish. If it was a complete lifting of protection, count me in because GG's are just too voracious, inquisitive and friendly to survive on their own against fishermen.

Where I have the greatest issue with the proposed harvesting of 400 fish, is that there is no plan out lined in how this will be handled. Such as how they will be going about in getting the fish, to even where or to who will go to. Too many holes.

#20 Rocha

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 11:50 AM

Let me chime in on this one, since I am one of the ones responsible for listing it as critically endangered. I am part of the group that evaluates this species (along with all other groupers) for the IUCN. We met in 2007 in Hong Kong, and the status of the Goliath was maintained as critically endangered.

What a lot of people in Florida don't realize is that this species' distribution is not only Florida. It occurs from Florida all the way down to southeastern Brazil, and the only area in this entire range with a healthy population is Florida. So, if anything, I would say that Florida should make tougher laws, and not relax them. This fish is stupidly easy to spear, and I am sure that the entire population in Florida would go back to very low within a few years (if not months) if the fisheries were to open.

Luiz Rocha - www.luizrocha.com
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