Goliath Grouper Survey


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has begun to conduct a survey to get the public’s opinion on whether to open goliath grouper season. Your help is needed in order to help continue the protection of the goliath grouper.

Goliath groupers, previously known as jewfish, were targeted by fishermen in uncontrolled numbers until 1990. This exploitation of the goliath grouper caused the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list it as critically endangered and the fishery was closed in 1990.

Goliath groupers are vulnerable to overexploitation due in part to their slow growth, longevity, and large size at sexual maturity. In addition, because they aggregate to spawn, they are easy targets.

While large groups of goliath groupers are spotted during the summer months in Palm Beach county, this is the time in which they congregate for their annual spawning. A false sense of their numbers could be attained by only observing these once-a-year aggregations. The same false idea could be said of the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley if our only observation of these turtles was during their annual nesting arribada.

Researchers have been monitoring and tagging goliath groupers in our local waters, and have learned that the population of groupers is no older than 15 years of age. Goliath groupers live to be 30-40 years of age, so our population here is made up of sub adults and juveniles… no adults! None of these immature groupers are viable in sustaining the population.

Goliath Grouper Feeding Photo
Scientific studies based on the stomach content of goliath groupers shows they feed primarily on crabs and slow moving fish such as this puffer fish.

The fishing industry attempts inexhaustibly to open the goliath grouper fishing season due, in part, to stating that these groupers are depleting their stock of fish and lobsters. Based on scientific studies, the goliath grouper’s stomach contents consists mostly of crabs and slow-moving bottom-dwelling fishes such as toadfish and puffers. Scientists are not finding any particular fish or lobster regularly as a part of their diet.

The goliath groupers are moving between our sites in Palm Beach during aggregation, especially between the sites in Jupiter and Lake Worth Inlet. They are coming from as far away as Georgia and north Florida to aggregate here.

Economically, goliath groupers are more valuable alive than dead. They bring in millions of dollars to the local economy in the form of divers traveling from around the world to see this once-a-year phenomenon. This rare and special event has captured the attention of the world throughout the media with such giants as National Geographic and the BBC.

The FWC is paying the University of Florida to conduct a survey to garner public opinion on the topic. The survey went out to 20,000 saltwater fishing license holders, but they didn’t send the dive survey out until this week, limiting the comment period for divers.

Please take a few moments to complete this survey and repost. On behalf of the groupers and Pura Vida Divers, we thank you and appreciate your help.