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NOAA REMOVES GOLIATH GROUPER FROM SPECIES OF CONCERN LIST HARVESTING STILL PROHIBITED

NOAA image of goliath grouper, which can reach a maximum length of approximately eight feet, weigh up to approximately 880-pounds and can live for more than 35-years.March 3, 2006 The NOAA Fisheries Service removed goliath grouper from the species of concern list in early February because a recent status report showed a significant increase in abundance to the U.S. population segment. The report also showed the species is re-establishing throughout its historical range. These positive enhancements are the results of protective management measures established over a decade ago by state and federal agencies. In spite of this information, the stock is still considered to be overfished under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Therefore, all recreational and commercial harvest is still prohibited. (Click NOAA image for larger view of goliath grouper, which can reach a maximum length of approximately eight feet, weigh up to approximately 880-pounds and can live for more than 35-years. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The NOAA Fisheries Service created the species of concern list in 2004 to identify species about which the service has concerns regarding status and threats but does not have sufficient information to list the species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Twenty-five marine species, including goliath grouper, were added to this list.

NOAA image of goliath grouper, which can reach a maximum length of approximately eight feet, weigh up to approximately 880-pounds and can live for more than 35-years.The NOAA Fisheries Service has been monitoring the status of goliath grouper since the early 1990s. In 2004, a team of scientists from the service's Southeast Fishery Science Center, Southeast Regional Office and state resource agencies prepared an assessment that indicated the goliath grouper stock in south Florida waters was recovering. Based on that assessment and inquiries from stakeholders, Roy Crabtree, the Regional Administrator for the NOAA Fisheries Service's Southeast Regional Office, directed staff to prepare a status report for the continental U.S. population of goliath grouper. This latest report showed that protective management measures resulted in an increased abundance of goliath grouper throughout its range, and, therefore, the species was removed from the species of concern list. (Click NOAA image for larger view of goliath grouper, which can reach a maximum length of approximately eight feet, weigh up to approximately 880-pounds and can live for more than 35-years. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"This is becoming a success story," Crabtree said. "Federal and state conservation and regulatory measures have prevented elevation of the species to the endangered or threatened status." Management efforts began on the species in the early 1980s when the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council prohibited spearing of the species and the state of Florida implemented an 18-inch minimum size limit to protect juveniles. In 1989, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council implemented a 50-inch minimum size limit. Finally, both councils and Florida prohibited all harvest of the species from federal and state waters in 1990. Federal fishery management councils and individual state agencies would evaluate future regulatory actions.

Goliath grouper is the largest of the western Atlantic Ocean groupers. They can reach a maximum length of approximately eight-feet, weigh up to approximately 880-pounds, and can live for more than 35-years. The body color is brownish yellow, grey or greenish, with black spots appearing on the topside of its head, body and fins. Mangrove habitat is thought to be the primary habitat for juveniles (up to approximately three feet), and adults are often found on artificial reefs, overhangs, bridges, piers and shipwrecks. In the western Atlantic Ocean, this species ranges from Bermuda and the Carolinas (though rarely) down through the coast of Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving the nation's living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. The NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Goliath Grouper Assessment

NOAA Goliath Grouper Status Report (PDF)

NOAA Species of Concern List

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Endangered Species Act

Media Contact:
Kim Amendola, NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office, (727) 551-5707
(Photo courtesy of NOAA's Abigail Poray.)