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The Goliath Grouper Endangered Species

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1 The endangered species act was established in 1973 to protect imperiled species from extinction. Whenever there is a concern involving a certain species, a study should be done to determine the level of danger the species is facing in order to prevent its extinction. Among the many species threatened, my concern focuses on the Goliath Grouper whose habitat encompasses the entire US continental shelf.  Since a majority of people enjoys eating this species of fish and because of their abundance, they have provided a great source of income for fishermen, resulting in the Goliath Grouper becoming a harvest target for commercial and recreational fisheries. According to NMFS (6-8) this has lead to a significant decline of the Goliath population commencing around the 1980s. There might even be other issues of concern that have supported this decline in numbers besides over fishing that is pointing to their extinction such as the ecological system of the sea might have changed or is being changed by the type of fishing, fishermen use or other commercial practices such as drilling. For example the relationship between sea predators and other small fish that depends on established habitats may be preventing the Goliath Grouper from surviving as in the past, however, the results of those issues are not known at this time.

2 In term of this issue policy process, the issue was well defined and addressed by policies. Not only that, several organizations such as the NMFS recognizes the declines in abundance of goliath grouper and had put a great effort to provide additional consideration to manage the status of the species. The story behind the decreasing population number of the goliath grouper was during the late 1970s and 1980s, however, no steps were taken during that time, which result in a rapid fall of its population that lead to list the goliath as an endangered species in 1990.

As I mentioned in my introduction that the Goliath Grouper issue was addressed within the entire US continental, but I’ve to be more specific. The issue was at first locally because this fish is distributed from North Carolina through Texas along all the way from central east coast of Florida through the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, actions were taken separately at first but then policy decisions were taken through multiple states. According to National Marine Fisheries Service, “Both the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) prohibited the harvest and possession of goliath grouper in 1990.” In addition to those states, Florida State did likewise and then all other coastal states did the same, prohibiting the harvest of the goliath, from North Carolina through Texas (Mackinson et al 43-48).

3 With respect to my issue, society, science, and policy should care about this issue. Scientist should get involved directly with fisheries and explain to them the long term benefits by not harvesting the goliath grouper. Although it is not easy for the scientist to explain facts for fishers, but with the stakeholder fisheries help, the fishers will get more knowledge and understanding of the issue and can cooperate in protecting the environment. It’s well known that fishers income will get effected in which it will result in a negative impact to the fishers families. Therefore, in term of economy, fishers will be affected and they are the loser in this case, however, in the long term, they are the winner too. Let’s say those fisheries harvested every single goliath. They did make a lot of money but they’re not making any money out of this fish the next year. In this case, for the short term they win, but in reality they’re losing. So those scientists should get involved directly in a way they create a collaborative working relationship between them and the fishers. The process of this is very important. So we’re not just looking for the outcome, but also the process in that there must be interplay between scientists, policy makers, stakeholder fisheries and the public. All of those want to maintain the livelihoods of these fishermen and the industries, so those fishermen should know that such a policy decisions can have a negative impact on their lives, but this won’t last for too long."

4 There are three major special interest groups in the issue of the conservation of the Goliath Grouper; fishermen, conservationists (scientists) and the policy makers who are politicians. The GAP Good Practice guide asserts that one of the most complicated things to explain to fishermen is the long term benefits of conservation. It further goes on to stress the importance of coming up with ways of convincing fishers to collaborate with science in resource conservation. John Levy of the Fishermen and Scientist Research Society contends that scientists need to respect their traditional/ experienced based knowledge and acknowledge its usefulness in science.

The MSFCMA on the other hand assert that fishers and policy makers do need to respect the process of research and its results even in instances where they are inconsistent with expectations or they are not as certain as hoped for (23-45). Fishers need to understand that disagreement with scientific results may not lead to any changes on the political arena. Fishermen need to understand that scientists play a great role not only in public good but also in protection of the livelihoods of the fishermen. Fishers should therefore look upon the scientists as allies rather than enemies out to destroy them. The government is also one of the largest policy makers in issues of conservation. The Goliath Grouper is considered to be one of the endangered marine species until 2006 when it was removed as it was considered to have stabilized. The government established the NOAA look into matters of endangered species alongside other agencies such as the ESA. The government represents the public and hence all its acts are for the common good. The government has enacted several legislation such as, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the endangered species act all to protect endangered marine life.

The fishers’ arguments are mainly in form of economics as scientific studies in most instances put limits on the extent of their trade. The common good is argued by both the scientists and the policy makers who argue for public good in measures undertaken. Fishers however contend that they are also part of the public and hence they also need to be taken into account as fishing is their livelihood. Matters of science and ethic also permeate discussions on the conservation of species as scientists contend that it is unethical to disregard conservation and risk our diversity through fishing of endangered species (NMFS 17-23). The possession of different perspectives therefore necessitates a common forum where all these interests can articulate their ideas.

5 Taking into the account the various differences in sentiment between the fishermen, the policymakers and the scientists, it is hard to believe that they can find a common ground regarding the conservation of the Goliath Grouper. The policy makers and the scientists have more in common than the fishermen and hence are more likely to find commonalities in sentiment. Fishermen believe that scientific data is a threat to their income and hence should not be used. For the fishermen a bigger catch of fish means more income while for the scientist this is endangerment of the species (Mackinson et al 78-95). The government on the other hand has a delicate act of balancing between the economic interests of the fishermen and the public good. Fishermen would only agree on short term interventions in order not to jeopardize their economic situations. The government is more likely to agree with fishermen which would clash with the scientists who would prefer long term policies. The government would in principle agree to scientific findings as they are mostly given out by its own agencies; however implementation of policies of these scientific findings may not be forthcoming. All groups would however agree on the importance of conservation of the Goliath Grouper for the sake of all stakeholders.

6 The most relevant policy with regard to the conservation of the Goliath Grouper is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which is public law number 94-265 as amended on October 11, 1996. The law asserts that all the fish off the United States Coasts, the highly migratory species in the oceans, those dwelling on the continental shelf of the US, and all anadromous species spawning the rivers and estuaries of the US are valuable and renewable resources which ought to be preserved for posterity. The law asserted that there has been a decline in the stocks of certain marine life which has put them in danger of extinction. The law contended that; commercial fishing was a major source of employment and to the economy, international fishery agreements have proved ineffective in reducing or eradicating overfishing, fishery resources are finite yet renewable if a functional management authority is put in place.

According to the MSFCM (123-33) the law therefore under the Presidential Proclamation 5030 of March 10 1983 enforced the right of exploration, exploitation, conservation and management of fish in the exclusive economic zone set up. It also agreed on the implementation of international agreements concerning the management of highly migratory fish species. There is to be the establishment of Regional Fishery Management Councils which would be in charge of coordinating the social and economic needs of the public and government policy by drawing up plans. The law also established policies to ensure the potentialities of fisheries were exploited to the maximum by setting up optimum levels for fisheries.

7 The assumptions of the law are reasonable enough to be taken seriously. The fish resources of the United States are a valuable resource both in terms of recreation and also in economic terms. The assumption that there are underutilized fisheries and habitats also rings true and hence the policies in regard to rectifying these are appropriate. It is a matter of common knowledge that international fishing agreements have been highly ineffective in controlling overfishing. The establishment of a fishing management authority is however not a new thing as such an idea can only work if proper enforcement policies are adhered to. While various populations of fish species have declined, the numbers propagated by the conservationists are questionable.

The policy designs of the law are the common issues that face the issue of the conservation of the Goliath Grouper. The goals of the project are neither too ambitious nor too modest as they address the problems of conservation according to the most pressing prevailing circumstances. The setting up of an exclusive economic zone makes it easier to monitor these zones which international fishing agreements failed to do. The policy on the strengthening of international fishing agreements is a good thing though it may prove to be non workable just as it has in the past if there is a lack of goodwill among the international partners. The setting up of regional fishery management councils while laudable may force opposition from the fishing stakeholders who may not like interference in their affairs (NMFS 33-35). The allowance for all stakeholder participation though may make this idea workable though it may slow down the process of formulation and implementation due to disagreements. Lastly while the policy to protect vulnerable habitats is long overdue this may prove to be a Herculean task due to the expanse of the habitats some of which are in international waters. While these policy interventions may improve the current situation more needs to be done in order to achieve more concrete and long term solutions.

8 In order to make the policy workable a number of changes need to be introduced into the bill; the setting up of an exclusive zone could negatively impact international cooperation concerning fishing and as such more detailed discussions should be held with other international partners, international agreements should be entered into only with countries which have mutual interest if they are to be enforced, the regional fish management councils need to be streamlined if decision making is to be made faster, The establishing of optimum levels for fisheries needs to be revised as science is not exact and the setting up of optimum levels could endanger fish species. The different regional councils need to be placed in charge of the protection of fish habitats rather than the NOAA.

9 In order for such an ambitious plan to succeed, it is important to seek political support as it is through politics that policy is formulated. Since the country is heading for an election year this would just be the right time to push for such an idea. The democrats being by nature environmentally conscious would more likely than not support this idea. The fact that this is an election year would also make the Republicans warm up to the idea as Americans are increasingly environmental conscious. The prospect of building bi partisan support is therefore very high and the bill is likely to go through. Opposition though might come form some of the members from states which traditionally have large fishing industries such as Florida and Alaska. In order to influence such members it would be necessary to push for other beneficial legislation such as the lifting of the moratorium on offshore drilling which would compensate for fishing in case the bill affects the fishing industry negatively. In order to improve the perception of this issue on the political arena politicians and the general public need top be educated and informed on how the policy is for the good of all and not supposed to target the livelihood of some people (Mackinson et al 56-63).

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