JUPITER, Fla. - Unique is an understatement when talking about the goliath grouper. The fascinating creatures roam our reefs and are a big tourist attraction because of their size.
"They're like big puppy dogs is about the best way to describe them. Gentle giants, they are 3, 4, 500 pound fish and they just mosey along down the reef really slowly," said Gerry Carroll of Jupiter Dive Center.
They come to South Florida waters to spawn this time of year, so it may look like there are a lot of them, but throughout the world they are an endangered species.
Carli Segelson of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said, "Goliath grouper are a federally protected species of fish. They are native to Florida. Historically these fish have been overfished and so they've been fished to the extent that it was threatening their population."
If you happen to hook one of these majestic creatures, you're not supposed to bring it up onto the boat, not even for a quick picture; it does more harm than if you just cut the line.
That's why it was a shock when on one of his dives Wednesday Carroll saw a goliath grouper with a spear stuck right between the eyes.
"It was kind of surprising that someone would have shot this fish, it was evident that is was shot deliberately. It was definitely not a mistake."
Gerry was able to remove the spear without causing more injury. It is unknown if the big fish will survive, but he was looking good after a separate sighting later.
Amy Lesh, a divemaster for Jupiter Dive Center said, "He's back in with his group he was about 20 feet away from the hole. I was thrilled to see him."
The dive team said this is the second goliath grouper they've found speared off Jupiter in the past three weeks. So the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is involved.
"Anytime we get information that the law is broken like this, this is something that we take very seriously and we are going to investigate it. It is a second degree misdemeanor and that can be punishable up to 500 dollars and potentially 6 months in jail." Segelson said.
If you see any type of wildlife violation, call the FWC wildlife alert hotline 888-404-FWCC.