There were a few surprises in the Florida Sportsman Panel’s survey on goliath grouper and the FWC’s discussions concerning opening a season for the species, which has been closed to possession in Florida state and federal waters since 1990. One thing is clear: people want to see some form of season for goliaths instituted by more than 6 to 1. To the question of whether FWC should open a season, 418 people said yes, and 69 said no.

Somewhat more surprising was the high number of people who said that if opened, spearfishing should be allowed to take the grouper: 232 people said yes to spearfishers and 185 said no. Perhaps this outcome reflects the increasing popularity of spearfishing in recent years on all Florida coasts.

But most surprising was the high number of people who said that if a season were opened, goliath grouper catches should be reported: 381 said yes to reporting compared to 171 who were against it. There was also a high percentage of people who believed that more than a third of people who caught a goliath grouper would actually report it if they were required to do so, which could be seen as an increasing acceptance of fishery management efforts to gather data through individual reporting.

The FWC will discuss the goliath grouper stocks and the latest developments in opening a season at their meeting in late April in Fort Lauderdale. As always, if changes are proposed there will be a discussion period in which public input is invited.

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