PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. (CBS12) — A conservationist who earns a living underwater is fighting to keep Goliath grouper in the water.
Eco-tourism dive charter operator Jim Abernethy has spent time under water with the Goliath grouper along with other gentle giants.
“Right here in Palm Beach County, you can have this encounter for roughly two months of the year every single day,” he said.
Abernethy is taking his message from the ocean floor to the surface in order to prevent Goliath groupers from getting hooked for science to study age, growth and reproduction.
“I’m extremely concerned," he said. "This is a new precedent. The fact that a government agency is actually considering harvesting a critically endangered animal to me just doesn’t make sense."
The fish has been protected in state and federal waters since 1990.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is exploring the idea of what it terms “a limited harvest opportunity,” possibly charging people $300 to catch the massive fish.
FWC says an abundance of Goliath grouper in South Florida is justification for considering the harvest.
But the Goliath grouper is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
“It’s hard for me to believe, especially when you look at the pressures of our oceans that we would consider harvesting the Goliath grouper when we know that you can’t eat it,” Abernethy said.
The FWC is continuing to gather public input and any changes will be made next year.