The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has unanimously approved a proposal that would for the first time in thirty years opening a season for goliath groupers. This season would be extremely regulated and it would operate under a lottery system with only a certain number of anglers receiving tags.
According to Field and Stream, the proposal would establish a 3 month season during the spring and issue out 200 tags. Anglers would pay $10 to apply and if they were successful they would pay $500 for the tag, which is similar to how big game lotteries are run. They would further be restricted to only using line and reel (no spearfishing), and they would have to abide by a 20 and 36 inches slot limit.
This move towards regulated harvest is in response to upward trends in goliath grouper numbers. Populations nose-dived during the later part of the twentieth century due to over-harvesting and habitat destruction. Conservation efforts have proved effective and these new numbers actually show a small harvest will benefit the pieces as a whole.
Any successful angler would also be required to submit measurements and samples of their fish to biologists. FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said the regulated harvest should help the agency gather better data on the fish: “I think we are going to learn a lot through the process while continuing to promote continued rebuilding of the population.”
If the proposal makes it through the comment period it seems likely we will see a goliath grouper season as early as 2023.
“Conservation is not about closing a resource forever; it’s about closing it as a management measure and giving access back when we can,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood. “I believe we are at this point, and it is a small and productive step in the right direction.”