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State Officials Ask The Public: Should We Allow Harvesting of Goliath Grouper?

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Florida Keys--Public Libraries
Tommy Thomas with a goliath grouper taken at the Marquesas in December 1978. Collection of Don DeMaria.

Should Florida allow harvesting of goliath grouper?

That is the question being discussed at 15 public workshops around the state.

The mammoth fish can grow to the size of a grizzly bear. What’s not been big about goliath grouper are their numbers: Fisheries dwindled due to overfishing in the 80s. In 1990, harvest of goliath grouper was prohibited in Florida state waters and Gulf and South Atlantic federal waters.

But, a recent federal stock assessment showed goliath groupers numbers on the rise South Florida waters.

Currently the fish is catch-and-release only. Now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering opening a limited harvest of goliath grouper. And it wants input from the public.

Anglers and divers filled a room at Palm Beach County’s Lantana Branch Library Monday for the first of the meetings.

“If the science says it can handle a limited harvest without hurting the population, then we feel that there’s not a problem with going ahead,” said Brett Fitzgerald, executive director of the Snook and Gamefish Foundation in Lake Worth.

But the diving community largely sees it differently.

“I think it’s a nightmare,” said Boynton Beach diver Nancy Holloway.”I’m out on the reef every weekend. There are no fish left.”

Data and comments gathered at the workshops will be presented to the FWC Commission at a meeting in early December. It will make the decision on whether to open up limited harvesting.

You can provide comment or input on goliath grouper harvesting to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission online here, under "future topics."