On May 12, 2021, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) met to discuss a myriad of topics that affect the South Florida area. Among the points of discussion, a major proposal made the agenda – to lift the 31-year ban on harvesting the Atlantic Goliath Grouper. A divided FWC board ultimately voted in favor of taking steps to remove some of the protections on goliaths.
Specifically, the board directed the crafting of regulation that would allow 100 goliath grouper to be caught and kept during a 4-year period. The limited harvest would take the form of a fishing “lottery,” with FWC issuing $300-per-week licenses to catch and kill ONE (1) goliath grouper. The proceeds from licensing would fund further research on the species.
While this move is supported by fishing groups, some FWC officials were less excited about the prospect, and the board as a whole made it clear that their tentative decision does not mean a regulation of this nature would ultimately be approved. In other words, as of the date of this writing, it is still illegal to kill goliath grouper.
As its name implies, the Goliath Grouper is a monster-sized fish. This large saltwater fish can measure up to 8 feet in length and weigh between 600-800 lbs.
In 1990, FWC managers responded to the severe decline in the goliath grouper population by closing harvest in U.S. State and Federal waters all together. One of the main factors taken into account was this species’ unique biology and life span history.
The goliath grouper can live almost 40 years. Sexual maturity is not reached until ages 3-6. Their long life span and slow breeding makes the management and conservation of the species a difficult and long-term task. Another challenge to maintaining the species was the decline of mangroves that served as the ideal habitat for juvenile goliath grouper. Additionally, the goliath grouper were falling victim to overfishing, red tide, and changes in climate. All of these factors prompted FWC to ban the killing of this species. To date, the policy on the goliath grouper is “catch and release” and “dive viewing” only.
The Commission’s recent discussions regarding eventually removing an outright ban on keeping goliaths was prompted by the increase of the goliath grouper population since the 1990 ban as well as the forecasted continued population growth of the species. It is this positive data that some members of the FWC board used to justify construction of a tailored and highly-regulated harvest of the goliath grouper.
Our criminal defense law firm focuses on Florida Fish and Wildlife violations, including charges involving the goliath grouper. For more information on how Casanova Law can protect your rights, contact us. We are FWC legal professionals servicing Martin, Palm Beach, Glades, Hendry and Broward Counties.