Tag Archives: Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Goliath Grouper, an Historic and Easy Kill, Ready to Happen Again? SLR/IRL

The population increase of the Goliath Grouper is one of those rare “feel-good” conservation success stories. With the help of a 1990 law of protection, the species has come back from being historically over-hunted.

I was recently contacted by advocate goliath grouper protectionist, Ms. Katie Carlsson, who spurned my interest in the debate to “reopen hunting on the species.” I also knew I could share my mother’s plethora of historic St Lucie River “Jew Fish” photos labeled such during the non-politically correct era that was part of my childhood and before. In today’s blog post the original terminology is used in the photographs as documented.

Now for today’s “Goliath Grouper!”

I wanted to speak up for Katie’s cause, questioning the reopening of the hunt.  She has forward much information on FWC meeting dates, etc. Thank you Katie.

Before presenting you with many links to explore and opinions to read, I will say, that according to the Snook Foundation, “vast technological improvements in spear guns and diving equipment in the 1960s and 1970s made no wreck, cave or hole safe for Goliath grouper to hide. They have few natural predators and little fear of divers.They are easy prey.”

Of course anglers have the right to argue that the grouper in some areas, like South Florida, have been perhaps “too successful” and believe hunting should be reopened.

My question is if the giant fish will basically look you in the eye and let you kill it, or if there is a question as to the efficacy of the conservation program, why do it? There are so many other fish in the sea. 

Snook Foundation article: http://snookfoundation.org/news/38-general/667-goliath-groupers-harvest-them-or-protect-them.html

These are the locations and dates for future hearings:

Oct. 9: Jacksonville, Pablo Creek Regional Library, 13295 Beach Blvd.
Oct. 10: Titusville, American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, 6350 Horizon Drive.
Oct. 11: Stuart, Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave.
Oct. 12: Davie, Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road.
Oct. 16: Pinellas Park, Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, 9501 U.S. Highway 19 N.
Oct. 17: Port Charlotte, The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron St.
Oct. 18: Naples, Collier County Public Library – South Regional, 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway
Oct. 25: Tallahassee, FWC Bryant Building, Room 272, 600 S. Meridian St. (6-9 p.m. ET)

More info on meetings here: FWC Goliath Grouper: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/goliath-grouper/

Man with Goliath Grouper, photo of Harold R. Johns family, c. 1925, St Lucie River, from the archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Fishermen with Goliath Grouper, Stuart, Florida photo of Harold R. Johns family, c.1925, St Lucie River,  from the archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Goliath Grouper caught near today’s Roosevelt Bridge in downtown Stuart c. 1920. Photo of Homer Hines Stuart Jr. from the archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow. (This photo is similar to the one below.)
“This photograph of jewfish suspended from a pole resting on a Florida East Coast Railway car was taken in what was called the hole, a rail spur that went down to the St Lucie River near the Stuart freight depot. (Homer Hines Stuart Jr.)From page 50 of “Stuart on the St Lucie” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
“This postcard illustrates the use of President Grover Clevland’s name to promote Stuart. Joseph Jefferson, a famous actor of the day, also fished in the St Lucie River region” in the early late 1800s. Cleveland was president 1885-89 and again in 1893-97. (Photo courtesy of page 51 of “Stuart on the St Lucie” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Photo by Earl Dyer Ricou, Stuart, Fl,  c. 1950. (Archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
A dead Goliath Grouper that washed ashore near Bathtub Beach in Martin County, 2011. Goliath Grouper do not spaun until approximately six years of age and are believed to be able to live from 50 to even 100 years of age. They can weigh over 800 pounds. JTL
My corgi, Baron, gives perspective to the size of a Goliath Grouper. 2011, JTL
Courtney of “Fishens Magazine.” Photo taken prior to restrictions put in place in the 1990s. History shows, unfortunately, it is the nature of people to take more than they need.

Links from Katie Carlsson:

Lake Worth Hearing Article: http://www.wpbf.com/article/future-of-goliath-grouper-unclear/11648857

Panama City Articles: http://www.wjhg.com/content/news/440970113.html; http://www.newsherald.com/news/20170821/limited-goliath-grouper-harvest-considered

Florida Channel:

http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/2817-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-1/

http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/2817-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-2/

http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/2817-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-3/

http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/2817-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-4/

This is a link to the hearing in Key Largo. If anyone goes to hearings this can prepare them for what to expect and the information that FFWC is sharing.

http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/8317-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-goliath-grouper-workshop/

Another good contact is jim_abernethy on Instagram.
http://cbs12.com/news/local/south-florida-conservationist-fights-to-protect-goliath-grouper

This is an article on the commercial diving business point of view- http://www2.padi.com/blog/2017/08/07/goliath-grouper-may-lose-protection-florida/

This is an article to show that Goliaths are already being sold off to wealthy hunters. The CEO of Bass Pro Shops removed four of these fish from the population for a Sporting and Hunting museum he is building in Missouri. These fish are now lost genetically. How many of them died in transit?
http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/outdoors/fishing/2017/07/07/goliath-groupers-stuart-ready-move-midwest/457578001/

A post from Dr. Sylvia Earle’s “Mission Blue:”

In the earlier part of the last century, Atlantic goliath groupers were abundant from Florida to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. If you have been lucky enough to be in the water with these creatures, then you appreciate their unflappable personality and awe-inspiring size, which reaches up to 8 feet and 1,000 pounds. The goliath grouper has no natural predators besides large sharks and humans. We are writing with regards to the latter.

Goliath groupers reached commercial extinction in the late 1980s. For this reason, in 1990 a federal and state ban on killing them was implemented for U.S. federal waters and state waters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, followed by a 1993 ban in the U.S. Caribbean. Twenty-seven years of protection have led to a population increase, although not a recovery to pre-exploitation levels, in the state of Florida alone. Spawning aggregations are forming again off the east coast of Florida. It’s the only place in the world where goliath groupers are now reliably found in significant numbers, as juveniles in mangroves, and as adults in reefs, solitary or forming spawning aggregations. People come from all over the nation and the world to see the goliath grouper spawning aggregations in the late summer, bringing big dollars that boost local economies.

“Diving in the Palm Beaches back in the late 1980s, to see a goliath grouper was the holy grail. Many of us dove year after year, and saw perhaps one, maybe none,” said Deb Castellana of Mission Blue. “To witness the resurgence of the species since protections were enacted has been heartening, a real story of hope.”

Yet, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently considering allowing the limited take of goliath groupers in state waters. The proposal would allow the killing of 100 goliath groupers per year for 4 years, for a total of 400 goliath groupers. The sizes targeted are breeding individuals. If implemented, the kill will exterminate most of Florida’s breeding population of goliath groupers, destroying 27 years of conservation management effort. This “limited take” is not supported by scientific evidence. Critics of the goliath grouper say the species is overeating and responsible for declining fish and lobster stocks. Yet, actual scientific data from researchers like Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. show that overfishing, not the goliath groupers, is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks.

Some say that a “sustainable” take of goliath groupers is possible, but many scientists agree that the current population would not last more than one, or perhaps two years after opening the fishery. And groupers have no nutritional value for humans since they contain levels of mercury that are unsafe for human consumption according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health.

“I repeatedly asked what scientific evidence the FWC has to support killing the goliath groupers, because all scientific research published to date does not support a fishery for this species and shows the species is highly conservation dependent and highly vulnerable to overfishing,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “Many don’t realize that goliath groupers actually eat predators of juvenile lobsters, allowing more lobsters to grow to legal size and making more lobsters available to fishers.”

Don DeMaria, a local professional diver, adds, “the annual goliath grouper spawning aggregations that occur off the coast of South Florida are spectacular natural events on a world scale. Efforts by the FWC, and others, to reopen a take of this fish are sure to disrupt, and eventually eliminate this natural wonder.”

If a hunting season is opened on the goliath grouper, the FWC has floated the idea of charging $300 per fish killed. Yet, recreational divers pay around $100 for one goliath grouper sighting. Think of that: a single goliath grouper in the water is supporting local business to the tune of $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime. But one spawning aggregation alone, made by several goliath groupers, generates about half a million dollars a year for one dive business. Financially speaking, that’s a much better investment than collecting a one-time payment of $300 per dead fish.

“Killing goliath groupers will also kill growing economic benefits derived from divers who revel in the opportunity to be in the presence of these iconic animals who are often as curious about us.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle

A Final Message from Katie:

We are aware that the FWC is gathering public input on the possibility of a goliath grouper killing season in Florida. As such, we have called for our supporters to attend one of the many workshops held in the state in August and October, as well as to submit a public comment on FWC’s website. We will also gathering signatures to a petition, which will be delivered to the FWC in anticipation of the goliath grouper decision coming down later this year.

“Although the species has not recovered to pre-exploitation levels, enough goliath groupers are showing up at a few spawning aggregation sites that their presence, and the SCUBA divers that come to visit them, bring a much-needed lifesaver to small businesses in Florida, between late August and early October, just when transition between the summer and winter seasons will leave these businesses in the doldrums,” said Dr. Frias-Torres. “A live goliath grouper is more valuable than a dead one. And living goliaths will keep forming spawning aggregations and contributing to the Florida economy for as long as they live.”

We strongly urge the Commissioners of FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.

HELP US: Ask the FWC to maintain protections for goliath groupers!

You don’t have to live in Florida to help. Please take a moment to tell the FWC to continue protections for the goliaths at this link. Feel free to use the language below as your comment.

“I am disappointed to learn the FWC is considering allowing the taking of goliath groupers. Many countries look up to the United States as a leader in so many fields, including conservation, and here we are about to permit fishermen to take goliaths—a species depleted throughout its range, except Florida—and nursed back to healthy numbers over the course of 27 years of Federal and state protection. We strongly urge you to maintain protections for goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.”

I know this is a lot. This is a pretty interesting problem from science, conservation, and politics. The voting in the hearings is by clicker and is shown on the screen so have everyone who goes take a picture and post it. People that are under eighteen can attend and vote. They can also comment online at the FFW link.

Thank you,

Katie Carlsson

Links/JTL:
Fishens Magazine: http://magazine.fishsens.com/survey-study-shows-florida-anglers-want-harvest-goliath-grouper-much-theyll-pay.htm

Melville Spencer’s photo, Florida Memory Project Warsaw grouper (Epinephelus nigritus) caught in the Halifax River displayed at Gene Johnson’s Tackle Shop – Daytona Beach, Florida. https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/140114

Finding the “Long-Lost,” Long-Leaf Pines of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

A piece of long-leaf virgin pine from the windowsill of my Grandfather Henderson’s house in Gainesville, FL

Historic post card(s), long-leaf pine logging, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Grandaddy Russell Henderson as a young man, late 1920s Madison, FL. Family archives.
Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:

“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Swanee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”

At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.

Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more  interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!

This observation is bases on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida.

Florida State Geological Survey 1927 belonging to my grandfather who worked for IFAS and UF in soil science.

This public photo off the internet gives scope of the size of the long-leaf pines.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.

Digital Forest documentation of forest loss in the U.S.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:

“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.

(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)

I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it.  The situation is a  lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”

No 12386

Page 5, original land survey 1855

Today’s map, as printed on-line August 2, 2017.

Newspaper article in about cutting of trees and lumber in Indiantown area, 1927. (Thurlow Archives)

My mother looking through a book on trees of Florida. 7/17 JTL

Kelly Morris, 2017
Links/sources:

M.C. Davis Devotes Life and Fortune to restoring Long-Leaf Pine forest near Pensacola, FL: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/17/415226300/gambler-turned-conservationist-devotes-fortune-to-florida-nature-preserve

NFWF: http://www.nfwf.org/whoweare/mediacenter/Pages/longleaf-gallery-16-0520.aspx

Green Meadow Project: http://greenmeadowproject.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_22.html?m=1

Digital Earth Watch, Old Growth Forests: http://dew.globalsystemsscience.org/activities/investigations/what-is-a-digital-image/investigation-measuring-old-growth-forest-loss

Appalachian Woods, History:http://www.appalachianwoods.com/Heart-Pine-History.htm

NWF: https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Plants/Longleaf-Pine.aspx

West of Eden, SLR/IRL

“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?

Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples.  According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow,  “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”

In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.

This very special photo was given to my mother, historical Sandra Henderson Thurlow, by Capt. Thomas Richards’s great-granddaughter, Mary Simon.
The town of Eden was located between the IRL and the wet savannas, Ruhnke/Thurlow Collection. “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing  the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!

If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”

This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…

Website, Savannas Preserve State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Savannas

Where Jacqui and Ed walked, “west of Eden,” Google maps
Savannas Preserve State Park, photos 6-10-17, JTL.

Savannas from the air in 2013, JTL 

Eden, St Lucie Co.: https://sites.google.com/a/flgenweb.net/stlucie/history/old-communities/e

Eden Ghost Town: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/fl/eden.html

Jensen WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jensen_Beach,_Florida
Jensen Chamber of Commerce: http://www.jensenbeachflorida.info

Glimpse From the St Lucie, and its Lost Pine Forests of Yesteryear, SLR/IRL

Historic postcard, St Lucie River looking from “Dudley’s,” today’s Palm City, near Sandhill Cove, across the river to Stuart, undated. Courtesy, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
In this historic postcard we see many things that today we often do not see: a well dressed man in a hat; women also with lavish hats and donning long dresses; tall grasses along the shoreline; and an extensive pine forest across the St Lucie River…

Martin County, like most of Florida was once a giant forest. Logging companies harvested much of the area starting in the mid 1800s. We can only really guess what it looked like, and only imagine what the world was like for the animals and native peoples that lived under its cover.

Harshberger vegetation map 1913.
The famous Harshberger vegetation map of 1913 gives us an idea of what Martin County would have looked like, noting mostly pine forests, of Caribbean, sand and longleaf pine, but other plant communities near the St Lucie River would have included: beach; strand; tropical hammock; mangroves; low hammock; scrub; dry prairie; wet prairie; pine flat woods; swamp and marsh. The United States woodland density map of 1873 shows Florida to be one of the greenest areas of the continent having had the most trees. Wouldn’t that have been something to see!

Woodland density map 1873, William H. Brewer.
We cannot return the forests, but we can choose what plants and trees to put in our yards. The business of landscaping has us in a cycle of turf, fertilizing, pesticides, and often bushes and trees that don’t really “go” here.

One way to help the St Lucie River is to take into our own hands what we plant in our yards. This can take time and that’s part of the fun of it. Creating a Florida Friendly yard using a mixture of native and Florida tolerant plants, less turf, requiring  fewer chemicals and maintenance really does help. What if everyone did it?

When you drive across the bridge, or look across the river, or look at your yard, just for fun, ask yourself: “What would have been here, what would have been naturally beautiful, what would have attracted wildlife one hundred years ago?”….and then if you feel like it–recreate!

A photo from DEP showing a yard along the North Fork of the SLR. In instances like this it is easy to see the negative effects of fertilizer runoff in river from a yard that is mostly turf grass.

John Whiticar SLR/IRL
Florida Native Plant Society: http://www.fnps.org/natives/native-plant-communities

Florida Friendly Yards and Native Plants: http://floridayards.org/fyplants/

Original plant communities of Broward Co, (very similar to Martin Co. St Lucie mentioned):
http://journals.fcla.edu/browardlegacy/article/viewFile/77908/75344

US old forests: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/rmap/rmap_nrs4.pdf

John Harshberger:http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/chronob/HARS1869.htm

6-9-17 JTL