Archives for category: Oceanography

This year, the critically endangered Goliath grouper is once again under review by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). On the table, the possibility of opening killing season for this fragile species.

Learn the facts from my recent peer reviewed scientific manuscript published in Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation.

Click here for a FREE pdf download

Goliath Grouper meets Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres. Photo Credit: Steve Karm

Goliath Grouper meets Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres. Photo Credit: Steve Karm

Briefly, Goliath groupers are not to blame for declining lobster and snapper stocks in Florida, one of the main reasons behind requests to reopen the fishery.

In my paper titled “Should the Critically Endangered Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara be culled in Florida”, I analyzed fisheries landing data since the 1950s, diver based surveys and published dietary studies. I concluded that :

1) Goliath groupers eat invertebrates (worms, molluscs and crustaceans) and poisonous fish, not snappers and other groupers. Surprisingly, many of the prey consumed by goliath groupers are in turn predators of juvenile spiny lobster. Hence, goliath groupers are a fishers’ best friend, because through top-down predator control, goliaths could allow more juvenile lobsters to grow and become available to fishers.

2) The slow recovery of the Goliath grouper population in Florida is not the cause for declining lobster and snapper stocks in Florida. Instead, overfishing is the main cause.

3) A thriving Goliath grouper population could provide additional socio-economic benefits in ecotourism, and as a potential biocontrol agent for the invasive lionfish.

Goliath groupers are a national treasure. Florida is the only place in the world where we can encounter these gentle giants, from juveniles to adults. Florida also contains 99 % of the spawning aggregation sites known worldwide. With this study in hand, we now have a strong argument to continue protection of the Goliath grouper and dismiss any claims that the Goliaths are destroying valuable stocks of lobster, snapper and other groupers.

Related articles:

One-quarter of Grouper species are being fished to extinction

Five common myths about Goliath grouper (An outreach guide prepared by Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres)

If you walk on a Florida beach or go boating near a mangrove shoreline  keep an eye for one of these:

As part of an independent oceanographic experiment (not affiliated with any institution), I released 500 thumb-sized vials from an undisclosed Florida location. Each of them carries a message: call home.

If you find them, call the phone number or email on the label. You will be asked where, when and in what condition you found the tiny messenger. Also, you will be asked to provide the code. Each one of them carries a unique code.

On December 15, 2012 all recovered codes will be entered in a raffle, for a chance to win a small reward.

Your participation will allow scientists like me to better understand oceanographic patterns in Florida’s coastal ecosystems.

Environmental impact

The vials are recycled plastic. Inside there’s a clear liquid which is double filtered freshwater, completely harmless.

Before conducting the oceanographic experiment, I made sure I minimized the environmental footprint of the experiment. Other oceanographers in the past have used glass in similar experiments. I decided glass will be too much of a hazard because it might break, and for that reason I chose plastic.

The plastic is clinical grade and recycled, so it does not release any chemicals and it’s inert (the kind of plastic used in high-precision medical tests). To account for plastic vials that won’t be recovered, I have already committed to additional coastal cleaning activities, on top of my regular beach cleaning I do on my weekends. I regularly collect plastic and other trash as I walk on the beach. I also collect trash when I go SCUBA diving: plastic, cans, fishing line, hooks, etc.

As a rule, I modify oceanographic experiments so they are either pollution-free or I can remediate whatever minimal environmental footprint they might generate.

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