At its March meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a limited, highly regulated recreational harvest of goliath grouper in state waters beginning Spring 2023.
This unique recreational opportunity is possible through conservation efforts by state and federal agencies that aided in the goliath grouper population rebuilding over the course of three decades, following years of overfishing. This limited harvest will allow access to a fishery that has been closed since 1990 by issuing up to 200 harvest permit tags via random-draw lottery.
This approved recreational harvest of goliath grouper includes:
- A recreational harvest of up to 200 goliath per year, with a maximum of 50 from Everglades National Park.
- A required recreational goliath harvest permit and tag, issued via a random-draw lottery, to legally harvest a goliath ($150 for residents, $500 for non-residents).
- Limiting harvest to one fish per person per open season with permit and tag, non-transferable.
- A March 1 through May 31 season.
- Allowable gear will be hook-and-line only.
- A slot limit of 24 to 36 inches total length.
- Harvest would be permitted in all state waters except those of Martin County south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys, all of the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
- Post-harvest requirements, such as proper utilization of the harvest tag, reporting harvest data and submitting a fin clip for genetic analysis.
Harvest will continue to be prohibited in federal waters.
“After decades of closure to this fishery, we welcome this opportunity for a highly regulated, limited take of goliath grouper,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood. “In addition, the post-harvest data reporting will help guide future management decisions for this species.”
FWC staff have gathered stakeholder comments on this topic since 2017 from our commenting webpage, various Commission meetings and workshops. This opportunity is intended to provide access to this fishery while balancing the values of various stakeholder groups. Goliath grouper over 36 inches in length will continue to be prohibited from harvest as well as those in heavy dive ecotourism areas. This limited harvest is not intended to address fishing depredation concerns.