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adamhanlon

Call to Action: Goliath Grouper Harvest

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The Florida Wildlife Commission is holding a meeting tomorrow (3 March) to finalise there 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 https://myfwc.com/about/commission/commission-meetings/march-2022/. Alternatively, please [email the commissioners(https://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-office/senior-staff/commissioners/). A template for the letter is below, feel free to personalise 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:

1. 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.
2. The animals are aggregating in Florida's water to breed. Hence this cull specifically targets the adult breeding population, critical for the species' survival.
3. 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.
3. 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. 
4. 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.

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Wow! Being on the other coast, I am unaware of the dynamics in Florida. Who could be in favor of such a reckless proposal, and why?

I've sent my letter - thanks a lot for the template!

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UPDATE: (From Sandra Edwards)

From Today’s FWC Meeting ended up as a  a great day for Wilbur and the other Goliaths!  

The harvest of a small number of Juvenile Goliaths , only in Inshore waters, was a tiny win for some fisherman, but it is considered a non-issue by our best Goliath Grouper scientists—researchers like Chris Koenig and Chris Malinowski.

The much bigger story, and the far more important success for divers and the economy of Palm Beach county, was that the commissioners agreed with the dive community and the scientists, that a 1000 foot exclusion zone needs to exist around each of our three spawning sites in state waters. No fishing of any kind, under threat of major fines, and perhaps even boat confiscation—we will push for that as the FWC develops how they will police this exclusion zone.

Huge thanks to Shana and Bill Parks and Walt Stearns and Jerry Carrol and scientist Dr Chris Malinowski for the incredibly powerful presentations they made to the commissioners of the FWC today!

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