Sea Grant guide to estuary living



A Practical Guide to Estuary-Friendly Living by Karl Havens, Gary Lytton and William Seaman is a new publication of the Florida Sea Grant Program. The 24-page publication can be viewed online at www.flseagrant.org or purchased from Kindle or the iBookStore for 99 cents. This is the first all electronic publication of Florida Sea Grant.





Goliath grouper survey results released



Goliath grouper numbers have grown but scientists still don’t know on how well the species have recovered.



Atlantic goliath grouper, part of the sea bass family, were overfished from the 1960s through the 1980s. In 1990, a harvest moratorium was put into place in U.S. waters. As the name suggests, the slow-moving fish can reach 800 pounds and more than 8 feet in length. They are found off Florida’s coasts, throughout the Caribbean and off West Africa.



The species’ recovery is good news for scuba tour guides who showcase the impressive fish during outings.



Some anglers, who’ve had goliath grouper snatch their catch, say the large fish may have bounced back too well.



Kai Lorenzen, a University of Florida (UF) fisheries professor led a team of UF and Florida Sea Grant researchers that surveyed nearly 6,000 stakeholders in the goliath grouper debate. They held a workshop to discuss the big fish and presented the findings to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.



Many commercial fishermen believe that goliath grouper harm the environment by consuming huge amounts of fish. In addition, goliath interfere with fishing operations and many commercial fishermen (43 percent of hook and line, 87 percent of spear fishermen) have had to change where and how they fish to avoid goliaths. More than 70 percent of commercial fishermen surveyed would like to see the goliath-harvesting moratorium lifted.



Most recreational anglers view goliath encounters as desirable and only 19 percent feel that goliath are bad for the ecosystem. About half the recreational anglers surveyed would like to see the goliath fishery re-opened. Most fishing charter captains say it will be good for business if anglers are allowed to catch some goliath.



Goliath are most popular with recreational non-fishing divers. Eighty-seven percent hope to see goliath when they dive and 54 percent have undertaken dives specifically to view goliath. Dive charter operators benefit from this interest in goliath viewing. Non-fishing divers and dive charter operators strongly favor keeping goliath off-limits to fishing.



The survey team found broad support for limited harvest for scientific research to expand knowledge of the fish.



Lorenzen recommended that policy makers continue to seek in-depth, information on stakeholder views and bring groups together to communicate and look for shared solutions to maintaining a healthy population of goliath grouper.