Why It Matters: The proposed rule change to close these goliath grouper spawning aggregation sites to catch-and-release fishing in hopes to reduce perceived, potential impacts on goliath grouper populations is not scientifically based. Additionally, these sites are near the heavily populated southeast Florida region, and if they were closed to recreational fishing during one of the most popular and productive times to fish, it would unnecessarily hamper quality angling opportunities for many of the state’s recreational fishermen.
- On November 22, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter in opposition to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) proposed rule to close three goliath grouper spawning aggregation sites in southeast Florida to recreational catch-and-release fishing from July 15 to October 15 each year.
- The 3 affected locations contain 6 artificial reefs in Atlantic state waters off Martin and Palm Beach Counties.
- The funding to establish these artificial reefs was generated in part by recreational fishermen through the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
Goliath grouper populations have rebounded to the point where, earlier this year, the FWC approved a limited, highly regulated season for some harvest of goliath grouper. The population data indicated that goliath grouper are no longer subject to overfishing thanks to the catch-and-release regulations currently in place.
CSF’s letter stated, “This positive trend in population abundance has been achieved with catch-and-release fishing occurring at proposed aggregation sites. In the absence of any data that recreational catch-and-release fishing is having population-level effects at these sites, or other known goliath grouper spawning aggregation areas, this proposed rule is speculative and overly precautionary.”
In 2021 alone, the recreational fishing community in Florida contributed over $54 million to conservation funding through the ASCF, and every effort should be made to ensure quality recreational fishing opportunities remain available for Florida’s anglers.
CSF will continue to monitor the FWC’s proposed fishing closures to these spawning aggregation sites and will continue to advocate on behalf of the state’s recreational anglers.