Tag Archives: SLR/IRL

Documenting the Discharges 11-19-17, SLR/IRL

Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.

Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.

“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel 

St Lucie Inlet, Sailfish Point R, Jupiter Island L, and Sewall’s Point and mainland Stuart in distance.
Sewall’s Point
Manatee Pocket
Hell’ s Gate Sewall’s Point to right
C-23 main SLR
Confluence of SLR/IRL at Sewall’s Point’s southern tip
Sewall’s Point
IRL looking towards Sewall’s Point and Stuart. Incoming tide pushes plume waters north into IRL
somewhere looking down…

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image and was connected to Lake O in 1923. C-23, C-24 and C-25 were built later in the 50s as part of the Central and South Florida Project that over-drianed South Florida causing many of the water problems we live with today.
Atlantic ocean off Jupiter Island, plume water moving south over nearshore reefs
IRL near Sailfish Flats where seagrass forests used to flourish housing many fish…
Hutchinson Island looking to IRL
Roosevelt Bridge SLR
C-23 SLR

Documenting the Discharges 11-8-17, SLR/IRL

A lone sailboat is a sea of blackness, confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, once considered the most biodiverse estuary in North America and full of seagrasses, a nursery for the ocean..
http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/plots/s308h.pdf
I am very fortunate to have a small army of people helping me document the  Lake Okeechobee discharges this year. Presently, it  is the tremendous rate of government sponsored discharge from Lake O that is destroying the regions’ economy and ecology, right before our eyes, ~once again.

Friends of my husband, pilots Dave Stone and Scott Kuhns, took these aerials yesterday, 11-8-17 around 5 pm. When I asked Scott about the plume, he relayed that it went 15 miles south almost all the way to Jupiter Inlet, and since there is also rain driven, fresh, dark- stained water flowing out of the Jupiter Inlet (not over-nutrified, black-sediment water from Lake O) there was no clear delineation of blackened plume to aqua ocean water, like usual–rather, the waters are all dark….

“How far did the plume go east from the St Lucie Inlet?” I asked. “From the coast, as far as the eye could see…”

End of plume, near Jupiter Inlet
Another angle end of plume near Jupiter Inlet
Up close of a boat in the plume. Look at the sediment! Covering what once was seagrasses and killing our near shore “protected” reefs.
Plume in black water. Brown on black. The ocean? You’d think it was an oil spill.
Plume as seen at mouth of St Lucie Inlet near multi million dollar homes in Sailfish Point.
Plume at mouth of St Lucie Inlet on south side as seen against Jupiter Island’s state park/Jupiter Narrows.
A lone sailboat is a sea of blackness, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, once considered the most biodiverse estuary in North America and full of seagrasses, a nursery for the ocean.
Plume exiting St Lucie Inlet
The north Jetty at the St Lucie Inlet with plume waters going into the Atlantic Ocean. The plume goes east for many miles.

http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm–cfs over 4000 has been going on for weeks. A total blowout.

Lake O is connected to the St Lucie through the C-44 canal.
*Lake O level:http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml

*The ACOE has been discharging from Lake O since Hurricane IRMA hit on Sept 2oth, 2017. The rate of discharge has gone up and down, however increasing over recent weeks. Word is the St Lucie could be dumped on for many more months, possibly through the end of the year. So don’t count on taking your visiting relatives out fishing this holiday season even though you moved here for the water. This ecological disaster is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as Senator Joe Negron, alongside the public, and “River Warrior” groups, particularly Bullsugar, has pushed so hard  that the SFWMD and ACOE are finally working  towards building an EAA Reservoir that will begin the long journey of changing water drainage culture in South Florida, and “sending the water south.” Please get involved and learn more by viewing this SFWMD EAA RESERVOIR website:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir

*Thank you to the people, and the children, groups such as the C4CW, Rivers Coalition, grandparents’ HOA email chains, leadership at Martin Health System, and to the those working for the agencies trying to help the St Lucie. As the River Kidz say: 

“Adequate Provision” is not enough, Strengthening Florida’s Constitution, SLR/IRL

St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (Photo Jenny Thurlow Flaugh)

Florida’s constitution is important, not only because it is the ultimate law of the state, but because it sets the people’s values before the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These words are a reference in times of question and must be clearly written on the side of the citizen.

Right now, in Article II, Section 7, (a) “Natural resources and scenic beauty,” the Florida constitution reads: 

(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
Because this language is vague, ( what is adequate provision? ), and case law is sparse, these words become “overruled” by Florida Statute that clearly gives “permit holders” standing over citizens, and of course the environment making the present environmental protections in the state constitution “inadequate.”

Florida Statues, Chapter 403. 412. e.) reads:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/403.412

No action pursuant to this section may be maintained if the person (natural or corporate) or governmental agency or authority charged with pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources of the state is acting or conducting operations pursuant to currently valid permit or certificate covering such operations, issued by the appropriate governmental authorities or agencies, and is complying with the requirements of said permits or certificates.”

So a citizen is not at liberty to sue if a polluting entity is causing environmental destruction that is acting or conducting operations pursuant to a currently valid permit protected by a state agency. And if someone attempts to sue anyway, they have no real standing in a Florida court of law.

Hmmm?

~But, what if a sinkhole spanning 45 feet opened at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer facility leaking 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive water,” but this news did not get to the people who have wells in the area for weeks?

~What if the Army Corp of Engineers, and the South Florida Water Management District knew they were discharging billions of gallons of toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee into a community’s river making some citizens sick, yet there was no discussion, warning, or health notices posted until the entire ocean ran green?

~What if an entity could withdraw so much water from a spring or aquifer that….

What if, is now reality.

Yes, permit holders should be “protected,” nonetheless, having a valid permit should not be a right to infringe on the health, safety, and welfare of Florida citizens. Florida citizens and their environment co-exist. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.

We all know that many of Florida’s waters are “growing greener,  and more toxic.” This was recently reported by TCPalm’s Jim Turner:

“The 2016 report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.”

Florida’s “impaired” waters are growing, not decreasing. More springs, rivers and lakes are in horrible condition. We see it. Like it or not, the only way to ensure an “adequate” future for Florida’s citizen’s and her waters is to find a way to create acceptable language giving people a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

CRC - 2017P 23By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
       
       thurlowlj-00038-17                                      201723__
    1                         A proposal to amend                       
    2         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
    3         establish that every person has a right to a clean and
    4         healthful environment.
    5          
    6  Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
    7  Florida:
    8  
    9         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
   10  amended to read:
   11                             ARTICLE II                            
   12                         GENERAL PROVISIONS                        
   13         SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.--
   14         (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
   15  protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
   16  provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
   17  water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
   18  the conservation and protection of natural resources.
   19         (b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause
   20  water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
   21  Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
   22  paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
   23  purposes of this subsection, the terms "Everglades Protection
   24  Area" and "Everglades Agricultural Area" shall have the meanings
   25  as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
   26         (c) The natural resources of the state are the legacy of
   27  present and future generations. Every person has a right to a
   28  clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water;
   29  control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of
   30  the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the
   31  environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this
   32  right against any party, public or private, subject to
   33  reasonable limitations, as provided by law.
Proposal #23 was a public proposal. It was created by Traci Deen and her students at Barry University. I sponsored their publicly submitted proposal #700450. There were other proposals also on the “rights of environment/nature” topic including 7000672 by Richard Silvestri; 7000216 by Trevor Tezel; 700739 by Richard Grosso; —submitted to Article 1, Declaration of Rights, 700558 a Florida Environmental Bill of Rights by Paul Laura;  and the Rights of Nature submitted independently by Mr. David Hargrove. Thank you to all and the many others!
If you have any ideas or would like to comment, please write me directly at jacqui.lippisch@flcrc.gov or at this blog post.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18
http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

*This proposal will go before the Judicial Committee on November 28 and if it makes through that committee it will go through the General Provisions committee. You can write committees here to support or express concerns:
http://flcrc.gov/Committees

11-8-17

A Chocolate Ocean; A Black River, A Disgrace, SLR/IRL

Flight over SLR/IRL to view canal C-23, C-24, C-25 and especially present high releases from Lake Okeechobee through C-44 Canal. JTL/EL 10-14-17

Yesterday, I asked Ed to take me up in the plane, once again to document the discharges. In the wake of much rain and an active hurricane season, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon continues to sacrifice its economy, health, and ecosystem for the EAA and South Florida drainage. A standard operating procedure that is outdated and dangerous.

The discharges from Lake O. have been on and off since Hurricane Irma hit on September 20th. Presently they are “on,” and it shows. Right now our river and ocean shores near the inlet should be at available to boaters, fisher-people, and youth, in”full-turquoise-glory.” Instead, the estuary, beaches, and near offshore is a ghost-town along a chocolate ocean and a black river. The edge of the plume can hardly be distinguished as all is dark, sediment filled waters. A disgrace.

ACOE 10-15-17
10-15-17 Lake O is high. This is a threat to those who live south and around the lake.
South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1850 & today. The water that used to flow south now is sent to the ocean and Gulf of Mexico through canals C-44 (SLR) and C-43.(Cal.) (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
Image showing drainage of S. Florida through St Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. These rivers, that God did not connect to Lake Okeechobee, have been channelized by humans to dump Lake O. This drainage system put in place  in the 1920s does not serve Florida today. Not economically, health wise, or environmentally. We must continue to push to replumb the system the best we can.  (Public image.)

ACOE, Lake O: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml
S-308 and S-80 connected to both LO and C-44: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm
C-23,(S97) C-24,(S49) C-25 (S99): http://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/pls/portal/realtime.pkg_rr.proc_rr?p_op=FORT_PIERCE

I told Ed it’s best not to smile for this photo. We look forward to seeing the model and timeline from the SFWMD and ACOE for Senator Negron’s reservoir, and the beginning of turning this century old nightmare.

 

SFWMD basin map for SLR showing canal discharge structures.

 

Speak Out Tonight, For the “Little-Big Fish,” the Menhaden, SLR/IRL

 

One thing’s for sure, if you don’t have small fish, you won’t have big fish. Being a little fish is actually the most important thing in world. A small fish is a “big fish” we could say, part of it anyway…  As kids, we learn about the food chain and it makes perfect sense. All life is dependent upon another; everything is connected.

https://fizzyjinks.deviantart.com/

I have to say when Cameron Jaggerd contacted me, I had to look up “menhaden” in Wikipedia. I was not familiar with the name. When I saw this fish has many names such as shad, bunker, shiner, and pogy, I recognized it.

All those names, incredible! It is obviously an important fish to many regions, and to many people. In fact, I found an article in The American Naturalist entitled “A Study of the Popular Names of the Menhaden,” noting there are over 35 names!

Cameron invited me to attend today’s public hearing to support this important and underrated fish. I hope you can attend too. I myself have witnessed the beauty of terns catching the smallest of these fish, silver-sparkling, like metal against the sun. So beautiful! So important! An inspiration! We must protect these filter-feeding little-big guys, who clean our waters, and feed the world.

 

Below, Cameron gives great insight and teaches about the history and politics of tonight’s public hearing. His contact info is below.

Hi Jacqui,
My name is Cameron Jaggard and I work on public policy, specifically fisheries management, at The Pew Charitable Trusts. I am based in North Palm Beach and grew up on the southern stretch of the IRL. I am contacting you because there is an important public hearing scheduled for October 10 6pm at the Melbourne Beach Community Center that I thought you’d want to attend. This hearing, the only one in the South, will help decide the fate of “the most important fish in the sea,” also known as Atlantic menhaden or pogy.

After several years in the making, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has released menhaden draft Amendment 3 for public comment. The ASMFC will accept written comments until October 24 at 5pm and oral comments at the hearing. Final action will occur this November in MD. Here is the official announcement http://asmfc.org/uploads/file//59c18611pr37MenhadenDraftAm3_Hearings_Revised2.pdf. I have setup a Facebook event for the hearing here https://www.facebook.com/events/1260348224093315/?ref=br_rs . A flyer is attached.

With strong encouragement, the Commission could decide to leave hundreds of millions more menhaden in the ocean to grow abundance and provide for predators, such as tarpon, king mackerel, and osprey, or, without it, they could stick with the current single-species approach and likely take hundreds of millions more out of the ocean for fish meal, pet food, and other products. Issue 2.6 Reference Points – Option E of draft Amendment 3 is the option that gets us to this 21st century approach as soon as possible and as such, enjoys broad support from conservation groups (e.g. Audubon, Earthjustice, Wild Oceans, FWF), fishing organizations (e.g. IGFA, ASA, CCA, TRCP, Anglers for Conservation), and the best available science. As a matter of fact, Stony Brook is currently championing a PhD sign-on letter in support that currently has over 100 signers. This piece from Ed Killer last week gives a nice local take on what’s at stake http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/outdoors/fishing/2017/09/28/most-important-fish-sea-discussed-oct-10/711709001/

This hearing is a rare and important opportunity for you, your family, and friends to affect change that could have widespread, positive impacts for menhaden, their predators, and the people who depend on them. I heard the big commercial menhaden fishery had 150-200 folks turnout at hearings up north last week. This will be the only hearing in the South, vey important.

Also…I was trying to think of how you could best relate the story of menhaden to your readers. Some thought bubbles I came up with during this brainstorm are below. Seems there are some clear parallels between menhaden and the IRL. Specifically, that we want management of water and management of menhaden that benefits all, not just a select few businesses. Maybe these thoughts will provide some useful inspiration for your story or maybe not.
· Menhaden might not be well known outside of the fishing world, but their plight should be familiar to all those who have fought for the health of the Indian River Lagoon. Much as Florida’s water management has been shaped by Big Sugar, menhaden have been at the mercy of the commercial menhaden reduction fishery, which nets and vacuums menhaden out of the sea to be ground up and processed, like sugar cane, into ingredients for everything from cosmetics to pet food.
· This one-sided approach has produced very clear benefits for these special interests, while leaving everyone else who depends on healthy estuaries and plentiful menhaden in the lurch.
· Now, a proposed rulemaking, known as Amendment 3 to the…, could flip the tables and see to it that an important public trust resource is managed to the benefit of all.
o With your support, Amendment 3 could put much needed restraints on the commercial menhaden fishery to ensure we leave enough menhaden in the ocean to provide for the predators and people that depend on them from Florida to Maine.
· If you support this equitable approach to managing our precious natural resources, I encourage to attend the menhaden hearing today, October 10 6pm at the Town of Melbourne Beach Community Center and make sure to speak in favor of “Reference Points Option E.” Please also submit a written comment in support of “Reference Points Option E” to comments@asmfc.org with the subject “Draft Amd. 3” by October 24, 2017. For more information on Amendment 3 please visit http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/compass-points/2017/08/31/fate-of-most-important-fish-in-the-sea-hangs-on-commission-decision

FAQ:

 

(1) What’s happening?
The state officials that set rules for menhaden commercial fishing along the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will decide at a November 13 meeting in Baltimore how to move forward a new management model for this important fish. While fisheries managers throughout the country are starting to set catch limits for forage fish like menhaden in a way that leaves enough in the ocean for predators to eat, it will make history if menhaden are managed this way. That’s because menhaden is the biggest fishery by volume on the East Coast, and third in the country, after Alaska pollock and Gulf menhaden.

(2) What’s the timing?
Now is the chance for the public from Maine to Florida to influence the outcome. Until October 24, the Commission is inviting comment on menhaden management from the public in every state through in-person hearings, and emailed or written comments. This hearing is the only one in Florida. ASMFC has asked comments be submitted to comments@asmfc.org with the subject line Draft Amd. 3 . Pew has an action alert for people to submit a comment http://advocacy.pewtrusts.org/page/13431/-/1?_ga=2.234760734.140280769.1505740197-721074420.1504012946 .

(3) Why do people here care?
Menhaden (also called bunker and pogy) are prey for many species that people care about. Recreational fishermen want to see plentiful menhaden in the water for tarpon, king mackerel, billfish and more to eat; same goes for birders looking for eagles and ospreys and whale-watching tourists and residents looking for humpbacks close to shore.

(4) Who can I talk to?
I can arrange a time for you to speak with Pew’s Joseph Gordon, who leads the Mid-Atlantic ocean conservation team and can give you the national context for this issue; here’s his latest Pew blog on menhaden. A member of Joseph’s team will be at each hearing and can help you find people to talk to there, so let me know if you’d like to be in touch with him.

(5) Are there any visuals?
Great visuals are out there on menhaden and their predators. In the last few summers, videos showing these species feasting on menhaden (see this shark video and this humpback video as examples) are popular.

(6) What’s interesting about menhaden?
Many people may not have heard of menhaden, because they don’t end up as seafood in this country. Commercial fishing for menhaden is mostly a “reduction” fishery that grinds them into pet food, fertilizer and fish oil; about a quarter of menhaden caught end up as bait for other fishermen to use. Despite menhaden being one of the country’s biggest fishery by volume, there were no catch limits at all until 2013. While the menhaden population seems to be growing, it is still at near-historic lows. It was much larger in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, before hitting lows in the 1990s and 2000s.

Best Wishes,
Cam

Cameron Jaggard
Principal Associate, U.S. Oceans, Southeast |
The Pew Charitable Trusts | c: 202-590-8954 |
e: cjaggard@pewtrusts.org | pewtrusts.org
Twitter: @Coastal_Cam

______________________________________________________________________

 

Working info on the species from ShrimpnFishFlorida.com http://www.shrimpnfishflorida.com/bait_fish_identification.html

Menhaden
Shad, bunker, shiner, pogey, and no telling how many other names, are all describing the menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). They grow to approximately one foot and are very similar in appearance to the freshwater shad, but are not the same fish. Menhaden are extremely oily, which is why they have been commercially netted for so many years for the oil and meal that can be produced from them. They are many people’s “secret” bait for almost all species, using them alive, dead, or cut. They should be hooked just like all the other baits that I have written about so far — For trolling, hook them through the nose; for bottom fishing, through the nose or over the anal fin; and as cut bait, they should be cut diagonally and hooked over the top of the cut surface.
Menhaden are plankton filter feeders and can only be caught with a cast net since they won’t bite a hook. Sometimes when you see bait “striking” or rolling on the surface, it is a school of menhaden making surface slurps of minute surface food items. We used to be able to spot menhaden inside Tampa Bay in the summer time by the oil slick that will form over a large school. They also have a very distinctive smell if you are downwind of them. They are a very fast moving fish, and usually by the time you see them on your fish finder, they have moved far enough away from the boat so that you cannot net them. We try blind throws of the cast net in the area where we can see them flipping on the surface; this usually will produce bait. Menhaden are also very intolerant of low dissolved oxygen and will die quickly in a poorly aerated live well. Still, they are five star on my list of baits.
Just as a note, if you have never seen live menhaden, many of them have a small critter that comes crawling out of their mouths when they die. This is quite a surprise the first time you see it. It appears to be some sort of shrimp or crab that looks like a mantis shrimp and must live inside the mouth or gill area without hurting the menhaden. I don’t remember seeing this written about in any of the fish books, but surely some biologist somewhere has seen this.

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