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Should the Critically Endangered Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara be culled in Florida?

Sarah Frias-Torres 

Ocean Research & Conservation Association, 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949, USA.

Abstract

The Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara has been protected in the USA since 1990. In Florida commercial and recreational fishers consider the species a top predator of fish and lobster and advocate culling the grouper population as a solution to recover declining stocks. I examined the scientific evidence for and against culling the Goliath grouper, using commercial landing data from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1950–2010), fisheries-independent diver-based surveys from the REEF Environmental Education Foundation (1993–2007), and published dietary and morphological studies. An analysis of the commercial extinction of the Goliath grouper in Florida indicates that its recovering population is not the cause of declining fish and lobster stocks. The recovering Goliath grouper population could provide ecological and socio-economic benefits: as top-down control on other lobster predators, in ecotourism, and as potential biocontrol of the invasive Indo-Pacific red lionfish Pterois volitans on Atlantic reefs.

(Received September 22 2011)

(Reviewed January 09 2012)

(Accepted March 08 2012)

(Online publication October 22 2012)

Keywords

  • Culling;
  • Epinephelus itajara ;
  • Florida;
  • Goliath grouper;
  • Lutjanus griseus ;
  • marine megafauna;
  • Panulirus argus ;
  • Pterois volitans

Correspondence:

E-mail sfriastorres@gmail.com

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