Goliath grouper: Debate surrounding harvesting protected fish heats up between divers and anglers

State fisheries consider removing protection

JUPITER, Fla. - State fishing survey groups decided Thursday that they will start a survey to estimate the number of Goliath grouper fish currently swimming in the reefs surrounding Florida.

The decision comes after months of debate on whether to remove the protection set in place for the massive fish in 1990.

The fish is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Goliath groupers are currently protected from being harvested by fishermen. Some anglers and spear fishermen feel the population of the fish has grown rapidly and the fish is starting to eat the smaller fish they count on for business.

Supporters of protecting the fish do not see the need at all for the fish to be hunted.

"It's just like all of a sudden, you look up and here's this lumbering dark-colored Volkswagen going by," said Tim Sterns, a scuba diver who traveled from Michigan to Jupiter to see the Goliath grouper.

Growing up to 10 feet long and tipping the scales around 500 pounds, Sterns considers the fish a gentle giant.

"You just have to watch. It's just awesome. You just watch them float. They're floating, you're floating and you're sharing the same highway," said Sterns. "Take only pictures and leave only bubbles."

But there is now a push to do much more.
    
"If they started harvesting Goliaths again, the species would be wiped out and we'd be right back where we were," said Amy Lesh at Jupiter Dive Center.

Lesh feels removing the protecting from Goliath grouper is not only bad for the fish, but it would devastate dive businesses that thrive on eco-tourism.

"People say it's in their top five dives when they dive with the Goliaths," said Lesh.

Sterns agrees and hopes to never see Goliath grouper on a menu.

"I enjoy seeing them, but I don't see enough of them. I'd enjoy seeing more," said Sterns.

When reached for comment, several commercial fishermen in favor of harvesting the fish did not want to comment.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments