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Goliath grouper spawning divers’ delight

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Goliath grouper spawning divers’ delight

Thu, 12/09/2013 - 12:16
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For best viewing of the massive numbers, head to Jupiter on the eastern coast of Florida. Groupers travel from as far away as Fort Myers and northeast Florida for the spawning events on wrecks and reefs. The window of opportunity to dive with these large fish in these high numbers is quite small. Most of the fish are gone by mid-October, but some remain year round. Goliath groupers can reach up to 800 pounds and were nearly fished out in the 1970s and 80’s, but have made a strong comeback under a protection ban that was established in 1990. Dive operators in Florida believe the groupers are a valuable asset to the dive industry; aggregation dives fill a large ecotourism niche during the months of August through October. “The important thing is to monetize Goliath grouper to show they’re worth a lot more money to eco-tourism than they are dead,” said Randy Jordan of Emerald Charters in Jupiter. “People come from all over the world. They rent scuba gear. They charter a boat. It seems to me one Goliath could be worth a million dollars.” Finding a balance between the diving and conservation communities and the fishing community is vital in the continued success story of this species. Conservationists’ recommendations for the future management of the species include establishing a tagging program, setting limits to prevent harvest of large spawners and continuing the harvest ban. “This is how you manage an extremely vulnerable fish,” said Chris Koenig, a retired Florida State University research professor who has studied Goliath groupers for over 20 years. “It would be a great system if people would do it and not get greedy. Give everyone a piece of the pie but without doing damage to the population of these fish.”

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