Monday, October 26, 2020

What Does Science Tell Us?

1. A recent Florida State University research team published a paper on their findings stating “The Goliath Grouper is still Overfished and Critically Endangered!” A recent research paper by Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres shows that overfishing is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks; not Goliath Groupers. An analysis of Goliath Grouper stomach contents by University of Florida found that 85% of their diet consists of crabs and other crustaceans. The other 15% was found to consist of slow moving fish such as pufferfish, catfish and stingrays; not game fish. Florida State University researchers published a peer reviewed paper showing that reef fish abundance and diversity is higher when goliath Groupers are present on those reefs. This study shows that goliath groupers act as ecological engineers, creating life for many marine species. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with other entities, have conducted several stock assessments of Goliath Groupers, with the most recent survey taking place in 2016. The FWC’s recent assessment concluded that Goliath Grouper populations had recovered. However, these results were rejected by a panel of independent scientists brought in by the FWC to review the study. The panel rejected the manner in which these assessments were conducted and labeled the findings as an inconclusive measure of population. Currently, the Goliath Grouper is still listed as ‘critically endangered’. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) concludes that if permits to harvest the grouper are sold for $300 (an approximation), the current proposal to issue 400 Goliath Grouper permits could bring in roughly $120,000 to be used for ‘scientific research’ aimed to protect Goliaths. In addition, they state these captured fish can be sold for food. The Goliath Grouper has become a huge, thriving, piece of the ecotourism industry along Florida’s East Coast. One, out of the roughly one-hundred, scuba operators in South Florida stated that he brings in an estimated $500,000 each year, generated by taking divers to see these groupers in the wild. By protecting these animals, the long-term economic benefits to the state of Florida far exceed the value generated by a one time kill. Dr. Chris Koenig’s research revealed that the flesh of the Goliath Grouper contains high levels of mercury. Mercury levels in these fish were found to approach 3.5 ppm, far exceeding federal health advisory warnings. The FDA prohibits the sale of any fish with mercury higher than 1.0 ppm. With mercury levels higher than 0.5 ppm, the Natural Resources Defense Council recommends to avoid consumption due to the danger of mercury poisoning.

Please send emails to marine@ myfwc and call them at 850-487- 0554.

A petition can be shared and signed at petitions.moveon.org/sign/ save-the-goliath-grouper.

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