The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved limited harvesting of goliath grouper for the first time since 1990. The goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) is the largest species of grouper in the Atlantic Ocean. Goliaths are capable of growing up to 800lbs and to lengths of 8.2ft. They are large and imposing fish that show little fear of people.
Their bold attitude and willingness to defend their territories became their weakness. The goliaths don’t shy away from heavy leaders and large hooks and divers could swim right up to the goliaths and spear them. Those decades of overharvesting, destruction of mangroves nurseries, and their slow growth rate caused an 80% population decline by the time of the closure.
Goliath Grouper Harvest Reopening
Through the conservation efforts of state and federal agencies in improving the health of the goliath grouper populations over the past 32 years, FWC has determined a limited recreational harvest of goliath grouper can take place starting Spring 2023. FWC will issue 200 harvest permit tags via a random-draw lottery system. The announced regulations of the harvest as of now are
- Total Harvest of 200 goliath grouper per year, with a maximum of 50 grouper from Everglades National Park.
- Requirement of a recreational goliath grouper harvest permit and tag, which will be issued by random lottery, to harvest a goliath grouper
- Tags shall cost $150 for residents, $500 for non-residents
- Limit of one fish per person per open season with permit and tag, the permit and tags are non-transferable
- Season starts March 1st and end May 31st
- Only allowed to harvest fish with hook-and-line gear
- The slot limit for the grouper will be 24” to 36” total length
- Harvest permitted in all state waters except; those of Martin County south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys, all of the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, and Dry Tortugas National Park
- Harvest will continue to be prohibited in Federal Waters.
- Post-harvest requirements include proper use of the harvest tag, reporting the catch, and submitting a fin clipping for genetic analysis.
After the initial 2023 Spring harvest concludes, FWC plans to use the data collected for future management decisions of goliath grouper.