The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering allowing the harvest of up to 200 goliath groupers

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The Goliath grouper can reach 800 pounds and over 8 feet in length.

Three decades after it was placed on a list prohibiting the harvesting and possession of goliath groupers, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering a plan to allow a limited number of fish to be harvested from Florida’s waters. ‘State.

The commission will consider on October 6 a proposal to authorize up to 200 fishing permits per year for goliath grouper.

“Currently, access to the goliath resource is provided by catch-and-release fishing and dive ecotourism opportunities, but demands to reopen the harvest have increased in recent years as the population settles. rebuilds,” said Jessica McCawley, director of the commission’s marine fisheries management division. , the commissioners informed in a memo ahead of next month’s meeting.

According to the proposal, applicants for the “limited and highly regulated harvest” from 2023 would have to pay $10 to enter a lottery from which names would be drawn for $500 fishing licenses. Harvesting would occur annually from March 1 through May 31 in state waters outside of southeast Florida, from Palm Beach County south to the Atlantic coast of Monroe County.

The fish are an ecotourism draw for dive operators in this region. Never listed as endangered, the goliath grouper was removed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s list of special concern in 2006 and its list was changed from “critically endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2018 by the Independent International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Goliath grouper, which can reach 800 pounds and more than 8 feet long, had been caught in state waters since the late 1800s. The largest goliath grouper caught in Florida waters was a 680-pound fish captured off Fernandina Beach in 1961. Besides overfishing, the species is susceptible to large-scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tides.

“This proposal will provide users with additional access opportunities, protect areas of intense dive ecotourism, and provide researchers with necessary biological data while allowing the population to continue to rebuild,” McCawley wrote. “This approach would allow FWC to continue to manage this fishery for a diversity of values ​​and recognize Goliath’s important role in the ecosystem.”

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