Mar 3, 2022 - News

Florida wildlife officials lift Goliath grouper fishing ban

A historical photo showing a group of men kneeling in front of Goliath grouper

Atlantic Goliath grouper caught in the Halifax River, displayed at Gene Johnson's Tackle Shop in Daytona Beach, in 1920. Photo: State Archives of Florida

Despite opposition from scientists and divers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted yesterday to lift the ban on catching Goliath grouper, an embattled species that was nearly fished to extinction in the 1980s.

  • Under the rules approved yesterday, fishermen will soon be allowed to apply for one of 200 permits and tags to harvest Goliath grouper, which can grow to be eight feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds.
  • Harvesting Goliath grouper has been banned since 1990.

The other side: Opponents said there's no scientific evidence to show the species has rebounded, and recent environmental disasters like red tide and mass manatee starvation should at least delay any harvest.

  • They presented commissioners with a petition containing signatures from 66,400 opponents of lifting the ban.

What they're saying: "This is simply not the time to reconsider a harvest for this species," Chris Malinowski, director of research and conservation at the Ocean First Institute, said at the meeting.

Yes, but: Groups like the Florida Guides Association and the American Sportfishing Association backed the plan, though cautiously.

  • Commissioners who backed the change say a limited harvest with a slot limit of 24-36 inches, and a rule that mandates reporting biological data for the catch, will provide scientists more information about the status of the species.

Of note: Commissioner Steven Hudson, the only no vote, asked FWC staff to explore a fishing ban around several aggregated spawning grounds for Goliath grouper.

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