Fishery experts set to discuss Goliath grouper ban

Goliath Grouper (Eric Strachan/Staff)

Photo by ERIC STRACHAN // Buy this photo

Goliath Grouper (Eric Strachan/Staff)

KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) — Regulations on fishing for Goliath grouper and other species in Florida waters will be discussed at an upcoming conference in the Florida Keys.

State and federal fishery experts are set to meet early next month in Key Largo to consider streamlining the regulations for fishing in South Florida.

"If you drive down U.S. 1 in the Keys, you might legally catch a snapper on one side of a bridge," said Robert Mahood, executive director of the federal South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. "But if you take it across the road to your car, you may be breaking the law."

An update on Goliath grouper populations is expected at the meeting. A ban on harvesting Goliath grouper has been on the books since 1990, but fishermen say its population has rebounded.

"There's been a lot of interest, especially from the gulf side where they're seeing more (Goliath grouper), in reopening that fishery," Mahood told The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/1bqxrOA).

However, many biologists worry that allowing even limited harvests of the slow-growing, territorial fish that can grow to more than 700 pounds could reverse the benefits of conservation efforts.

"We really don't know if the stock is rebuilt," Roy Crabtree of the National Marine Fisheries Service said at a Keys meeting last summer. "It's probably close but we don't know. ... A lot of people feel if we open the bag limit, people will fish it right back down."

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Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com

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