Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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

  • Sarah Frias-Torres (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M.A. Albins & M.A. Hixon (2008) Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans reduce recruitment of Atlantic coral-reef fishes. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 367, 233238.

F.C. Coleman , W.F. Figueira , J.S. Ueland & L.B. Crowder (2004) The impact of United States recreational fisheries on marine fish populations. Science, 305, 1958–60.

S.F.J. Dudley & G. Cliff (2010) Shark control: methods, efficacy and ecological impacts. In Sharks and their Relatives II: Biodiversity, Adaptive Physiology and Conservation (eds J.C. Carrier , J.A. Musick & M.R. Heithaus ), pp. 567592. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, USA.

D.C. Evers , R. T. Graham , C.R. Perkins , R. Michener & T. Divoll (2009) Mercury concentrations in the Goliath grouper of Belize: an anthropogenic stressor of concern. Endangered Species Research, 7, 249256.

S. Frias-Torres (2006) Habitat use by juvenile Goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara, in the Florida Keys, USA. Endangered Species Research, 2, 16.

A.J. Gallagher & N. Hammerschlag (2011) Global shark currency: the distribution, frequency, and economic value of shark ecotourism. Current Issues in Tourism, 14, 797812.

L.R. Gerber , L. Morissette , K. Kaschner & D. Pauly (2009) Should whales be culled to increase fishery yield? Science, 323, 880881.

V. Haddad & I.A. Martins (2006) Frequency and gravity of human envenomations caused by marine catfish (suborder Siluroidei): a clinical and epidemiological study. Toxicon, 47, 838843.

M. R. Heithaus , A. Frid , A.J. Wirsing & B. Worm (2008) Predicting ecological consequences of marine top predator declines. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23, 202210.

W.D. Heyman , L.M. Carr & P.S. Lobel (2010). Diver ecotourism and disturbance to reef fish spawning aggregations: it is better to be disturbed than to be dead. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 419, 201210.

R. Hilborn & C.J. Walters (1992) Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment. Chapman & Hall, New York, USA.

J.B.C. Jackson (2001) What was natural in the coastal oceans? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98, 54115418.

J.B.C. Jackson , M.X. Kirby , W.H. Berger , K.A. Bjorndal , L.W. Botsford , B.J. Bourque (2001) Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science, 293, 629638.

C. Lalas & C.J.A. Bradshaw (2001) Folklore and chimerical numbers: Review of a millennium of interaction between fur seals and humans in the New Zealand region. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 35, 477497.

E.L.A. Malpezzi , J.C. De Freitas & F.T. Rantin (1997) Occurrence of toxins, other than paralysing type, in the skin of tetraodontiformes fish. Toxicon, 35, 5765.

L. McClenachan (2009) Historical declines of Goliath grouper populations in South Florida, USA. Endangered Species Research, 7, 175181.

J.D. Mintz , R.N. Lipcius , D.B. Eggleston & M.S. Seebo (1994) Survival of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster: effects of shelter size, geographic location and conspecific abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 112, 255266.

L. Morissette , V. Christenson & D. Pauly (2012) Marine mammal impacts in exploited ecosystems: Would large scale culling benefit fisheries? PLoS ONE, 7(9), e43966.

P.J. Mumby , A.R. Harbornei & D.R. Brumbaugh (2011) Grouper as a natural biocontrol of invasive lionfish. PLoS ONE, 6(6), e21510.

R.A. Myers & B. Worm (2003) Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature, 423, 280283.

M.L. Pace , J.J. Cole , S.R. Carpenter & J.F. Kitchell (1999) Trophic cascades revealed in diverse ecosystems. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 14, 483488.

D. Pauly (1995) Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 10, 430.

A. Punt & D. Butterworth (1995) The effects of future consumption by the Cape fur seal on catches and catch rates of the Cape hakes. 4. Modelling the biological interaction between Cape fur seals Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus and the Cape hakes Merluccius capensis and M. paradoxis. South African Journal of Marine Science, 16, 255285.

E. Sala , E. Ballesteros and R.M. Starr (2001) Rapid decline of Nassau grouper spawning aggregations in Belize: fishery management and conservation needs. Fisheries, 26, 2330.

M. Scheffer , S. Carpenter , J.A. Foley , C. Folke & B. Walker (2001) Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature, 413, 591596.

G. Sivan (2009) Fish venom: pharmacological features and biological significance. Fish and Fisheries, 10, 159172.

V. Volterra (1926) Fluctuations in the abundance of a species considered mathematically. Nature, 118, 558560.

P. Yodzis (2001) Must top predators be culled for the sake of fisheries? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 16, 7884.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 23 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 265 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.