This year, the critically endangered Goliath grouper is once again under review by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). On the table, the possibility of opening killing season for this fragile species.
In my paper titled “Should the Critically Endangered Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara be culled in Florida”, I analyzed fisheries landing data since the 1950s, diver based surveys and published dietary studies. I concluded that :
1) Goliath groupers eat invertebrates (worms, molluscs and crustaceans) and poisonous fish, not snappers and other groupers. Surprisingly, many of the prey consumed by goliath groupers are in turn predators of juvenile spiny lobster. Hence, goliath groupers are a fishers’ best friend, because through top-down predator control, goliaths could allow more juvenile lobsters to grow and become available to fishers.
2) The slow recovery of the Goliath grouper population in Florida is not the cause for declining lobster and snapper stocks in Florida. Instead, overfishing is the main cause.
3) A thriving Goliath grouper population could provide additional socio-economic benefits in ecotourism, and as a potential biocontrol agent for the invasive lionfish.
Goliath groupers are a national treasure. Florida is the only place in the world where we can encounter these gentle giants, from juveniles to adults. Florida also contains 99 % of the spawning aggregation sites known worldwide. With this study in hand, we now have a strong argument to continue protection of the Goliath grouper and dismiss any claims that the Goliaths are destroying valuable stocks of lobster, snapper and other groupers.