*Content warning: there are a few graphic images, especially related to the impacts of mercury poisoning. As such, we recommend this presentation for mature audiences.*
TLDR, Links referenced in talk:
Why any goliath grouper fishery at all is a bad idea here.
Draft rule language here.
Jean-Michel Cousteau's PSA here.
Goliaths in the Stream short film here.
Active petition against goliath grouper fishery here.
In this DCP Deep Dive, Dr. Chris Malinowski, a biologist passionate about conservation of marine and aquatic systems discusses not dolphins, but a fish: the goliath grouper. The Atlantic Goliath Grouper, a large indigenous tropical reef fish, approached local extinction in U. S. waters by the 1980s, as a result of intense fishing pressure. In 1990, federal and state laws intervened to protect this species. The resulting fishery closure allowed limited, slow population recovery in Florida waters and a dive ecotourism industry blossomed. During this special Deep Dive, Chris discusses goliath grouper’s biology, the controversy surrounding its protection, and the drawbacks of re-establishing a fishery including loss of nursery habitat, increasingly destructive episodic events like red tide and cold snaps, and the effects of mercury contamination on fish health and survival, as well as human health implications.
DCP supports making sure that the science is heard over the misperceptions of a few individuals that are likely driving the pressure to reopen this fishery.
The active, online petition in support of protecting goliath grouper can be found here.
Note that this petition was started in 2018, during the last Commissioner hearing when goliath grouper were still listed as critically endangered by IUCN. They are now listed as "vulnerable.”
You can also read the letter Chris and colleagues wrote to the Commissioners that was signed by prominent scientists and conservationists. This will help viewers further understand the points made during this talk. His website and the letter can be read here.
Chris’ presentation includes the PSA announcement that Jean-Michelle Cousteau made in support of the goliath grouper. This PSA video is also on Chris’ website (see above). You can also follow Chris on Instagram (@conservation.chris).
And, last but not least, you can check out Terramar Productions' short film, Goliaths in the Stream for a stunning visual representation about these fish, their history, and their plight.
DCP Deep Dives are geared toward ages 14+, but all are welcome. In this presentation, there are a few graphic images, especially related to the impacts of mercury poisoning. As such, we recommend this presentation for mature audiences.
Original Airdate: 9 September 2021
Thursday, 9 September, 7:00 PM ET (NYC, Miami - Zoom details below)
Spawning Patterns, Diet, Mercury, and Reasons Why Goliath Grouper Should be Protected In Perpetuity
In this Deep Dive, Chris Malinowski, a biologist who is passionate about conservation of marine and aquatic systems will discuss not dolphins, but a fish: the goliath grouper. The Atlantic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara), a large indigenous tropical reef fish, approached local extinction in U. S. waters by the 1980s as a result of intense fishing pressure. In 1990, federal and state laws intervened to protect this species. The resulting fishery closure, over the intervening years, allowed limited, slow population recovery in Florida waters while populations outside of the United States remained vulnerable (IUCN 2019). The closure led to the blossoming of a dive ecotourism industry catering to local and international divers seeking opportunities to see and photograph these enormous fish. This fundamentally changes the paradigm for goliath grouper from a fishery resource to a non-extractive resource with a commercial value vastly greater than that gained through fishing. While federal and state agencies attempted to re-establish the fishery, all three stock assessments were rejected. During this special Deep Dive, Chris will discuss goliath grouper’s biology, the controversy surrounding its protection, and the drawbacks of re-establishing a fishery – especially in light of the recent FWC Commissioners vote in favor of having FWC staff develop a draft plan for a limited fishery – including: loss of nursery habitat, increasingly destructive episodic events like red tide and cold snaps, and the effects of mercury contamination on fish health and survival, and also human health implications.
DCP Deep Dives are geared toward ages 14+, but all are welcome. This talk is expected to run ~50 minutes, plus Q&A.
Learn more about Chris at www.chrismalinowski.org or on Instagram (@conservation.chris)
Want an intro before the talk? Check out Terramar Productions' short film, Goliaths in the Stream.
Sept 9, 2021 7:00 PM Eastern Time (NYC, Miami, etc.)
Join URL: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82989899885
Meeting ID: 829 8989 9885
Assistant Professor of Animal Studies, Eckerd College
Dr. Erin Frick is an Assistant Professor of Animal Studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Originally from Sparta, NJ, Erin earned her B.Sc. in Zoology with minors in Animal Behavior and Spanish from the University of New Hampshire. She then went on to complete her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Brain and Behavior Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, working in the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory with director Dr. Stan Kuczaj. Erin has been active in research for more than 10 years, and her research interests include animal behavior, animal welfare and conservation, and applied behavior analysis in animal models. She has experience conducting research with wild animals and animals housed in managed-care facilities, including: bottlenose dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, sea otters, Asian small-clawed otters, hippopotamus, polar bears, sea lions, Pacific walrus, sea turtles, zebrafish, and rats. Dr. Erin Frick currently serves as co-director of the Animal Studies Research Collaborative at Eckerd College, and is the Director of the Frick Animal Behavior Laboratory, where she and her students are collaborating with the DCP on analyzing data on bottlenose dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin behavior and acoustics collected by the DCP in the field. 'Dr Erin' is passionate about educating the public and and furthering research on dolphin behavior and communication!
Today, we share the last day observations from each student individually.
Victor: The morning was data but also a chance to say goodbye to the dolphins. I’m still not sure who is who but I can recognize 1 or 2 … especially Poli. The other highlight for me today was snorkeling in the afternoon at Bailey’s Key near the dolphin area. This made getting my covid test in Coxen Hole and away from the dolphins ok.
Alessandro: Today was a relaxing day. After the last data collection, we had one of the best snorkeling sessions around. We took our time and swam from the shore dive and saw the coral reef trees for the restoration project. It was a new experience. Lunch was a very delicious falafel. I tried to watch the football but I decided it was better to be in the Caribbean and enjoy the day. I said bye to the dolphins but not a forever bye.
Marica: This afternoon I saw an eagle ray while snorkeling, and I was able to record it feeding, which was neat.
Laura: We woke up and we unfortunately did our last data collection for this week. The dolphins were more active today from the surface. We saw a few breaches. We got to say goodbye to the dolphins and some of them came close to the platforms, which was nice. After breakfast, we went snorkeling and we saw the coral trees. There were a lot of big fishes near the trees. While swimming back, we swam over the eel grass and all got a few bites from the jellyfish larva. We saw the dolphins again in the afternoon but from outside their enclosure when we were snorkeling.
Riccardo: Today I touched dolphins for the last time. I enjoyed very much this afternoon’s snorkeling session because the water was clear and warm and we had no rush to finish … we had all the time we wanted to enjoy the afternoon snorkeling.
Annalisa: It was a quiet day mostly “off” but the best moment was when I was able to take some video on my own of the dolphins. And, Bailey seemed very interested in my GoPro. Having the dolphins all around was wonderful!
Sonja: Had a nice morning, although as bit sad because we had to say goodbye to the dolphins. The rest of the day was relaxing and enjoying a bit of free time and snorkeling. And we finished the night with a quiz of 27 dolphin ID images, which was quite fun! (And Davide and I tied with recognizing 18 of the 27 images!).
Davide: The trip to the coral trees (snorkeling from shore) was a nice moment together and seeing the trees. It was nice but also sad to say goodbye to the dolphins. I will miss the little ones – Sandy, Stan & Ronnie … Ronnie is adult but I’ll still miss him, too.
Shannon: We had a nice last morning with the dolphins and they were very friendly and came to say goodbye at the platform. I got sunburned when I went paddle-boarding. I avoided it all week but got sun this week and have a really cool sandal tan! We saw the dolphins one last time in the afternoon and also snorkeled and saw an eagle ray. And, I am covid negative, so I can go home!
It was a great week and we all learned lots!
The UofB stvslmv group
This morning, surprise! We collected data with Kathleen’s observations. The dolphins were a bit more active this morning compared to yesterday. We saw some breaching. And Bailey did a weird curved posture for Laura (see cover photo) while Stan did a “fluke-stand” for her. (Thank you, Laura).
The weather was better with sunshine and a slight breeze. Sometimes the dolphins were chasing each other at the surface. And, several dolphins paid a visit to platform 1 to try to entice us to play … away from our observations. The space use data collection is much more easy to collect than when we began and the scans don’t feel as rushed any more.
Here, Sonja, Alessandro, and Victor conduct a space use scan from the Palapa.
After data collection, we stopped by our rooms to collect our gear.
We came back for a quick breakfast before two snorkels from the boat. On the snorkels, some of us were lucky and saw a squid, stingray, lionfish, triggerfish, damsel fish, fairy basslets, sergeant majors, wrasse, and barracuda. We also saw grouper and parrot fish. They were two good snorkels – the first was off Man-o-war key and the second was off the reef closer to AKR.
The reef looked beautiful from the surface – thanks Manon for sharing this photo!
After lunch we had a talk from Jen on coral restoration. Some of us might try to snorkel out to the coral “Christmas trees” tomorrow to take a look at them. The talk was interesting and it was informative to learn how we might actually be able to protect the reefs and encourage new growth.
We watched the morning video and saw Lenca, Stan and Tank pay way too much attention to Kathleen’s fins. We will have a couple of hours “off” before our night snorkel.
The night snorkel presented us with “cold” water! But, we saw a big puffer fish, an octopus, a couple of lobsters, and other nighttime critters. The animals made the cold water worth it!
After dinner, we saw a spotted eagle ray adjacent to the water taxi stand. A great day!
The UofB stvslmv group
We did our morning observations and data collection. No sunrise this morning but a cloudy day and windy. And the dolphins were quiet, sleeping it seemed – maybe like a hangover in humans.
After breakfast, we prepared ourselves to get ready for our encounter and snorkel with the dolphins. We had more than Bailey during our encounter – French and Tilly were chasing each other and trying to swim between us. Tilly seemed to be hiding behind our legs watching for French. And Bailey was also keeping an eye on Tank because he seemed to be half-interested in his encounter program. When Bailey and Tank did behaviors together, Tank seemed distracted but came around to Bailey. Not all of us had our pictures taken with Bailey … but there were four of us who did document our meeting with Bailey.
Here is Marica and Bailey
And, Shannon and Bailey
And Sonja and Bailey
When the dolphin kisses you on the cheek, we did not realize how much pressure they exerted – See Davide with Bailey to get an idea!
Our swim followed the encounter. Annalisa did not expect to be able to hear them before seeing them in the water. Shannon did not realize that they could be constantly vocalizing. Laura kept hearing the sound get louder and then started when she realized the dolphin was right behind her! Sonja did not even realize that Sandy leaped just behind her. And all of us had 2-3-4 dolphins zip around us and leap near us and we were amazed that they did not touch us or hit us. Shannon had a great sea grass game with Calli and another dolphin. Sandy mouthed several of our fins and seemed to like Riccardo’s white fins especially.
After the swim, we stayed at Bailey’s Key to test out the MVA – outside to the north of the main lagoon area. It was easier and light than it looks to swim with the MVA.
Lunch was a welcome reward for a day spent in the water. And, at lunch a few of us could have easily slept at the table. So, after lunch we took a bit of a chill-out on the small Anthony’s Key beach … to bask in the sun and catch a power nap before heading to the RIMS classroom for a sea turtle lecture and more details about the PSP study by Manon and Kathleen.
Our lesson on sea turtles was good – a nice recap on some of the topics we had during our large marine vertebrate lectures. Then, we had a presentation by Manon about PSP (pair swim position) that was interesting … to learn about the different positions that dolphins will assume when swimming with others.
Here we listen intently!
Then we watched the video from the morning. And, we will wrap up this field report now so we can head to the fiesta night to enjoy ribs, limbo, and Garifuna dancers.
The UofB stvslmv group
P.S. here are two photos from yesterday’s space use data collection observations!