Goliath grouper

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a Miami Springs man this week after he was found to be in possession of this protected juvenile Goliath grouper.

At a time when state fishery managers are considering reopening the Goliath grouper fishery, the Florida Keys continue to see anglers illegally harvesting them.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a 52-year-old Miami Springs man on Wednesday when he was found to be in possession of a juvenile Goliath grouper, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt. Ming Horng Yin was taken to jail and charged with a misdemeanor count of violating state conservation laws.

Sheriff’s marine deputy Willie Guerra was on patrol on the Channel 2 Bridge at approximately 7:15 p.m. when he observed a man, later identified as Yin, walking with a cooler and fishing rod from the bridge to his vehicle, according to Linhardt. A Goliath grouper was inside the cooler. The grouper was returned to the water alive, Linhardt said.

There have been numerous cases in recent years in the Keys of people illegally harvesting them.

In September 2020, a student in the Florida Keys was arrested after he reported harvested a Goliath grouper. Joshua David Anyzeski, 18, caught a Goliath grouper while fishing. The 18 year-old admitted to messing with the fish, but said he did not kill it and eventually released it. He was charged with harvesting a protected species.

A month later, a Jacksonville man was charged with harvesting a Goliath grouper and six under-sized lobster and tormenting a shark following his visit to the Keys earlier in the summer. Yansel Garrido was arrested after he posted photos and videos of the violations on Facebook.

Goliath grouper is a state and federally protected species, and harvest has been banned since 1990. However, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission board member and Key West developer Robert Spottswood has been lobbying his agency to reopen the fishery.

Three years ago, Spottswood and the FWC proposed allowing the harvest of 100 Goliath grouper a year for five years, with tags being issued through a lottery system.

The proposal died in 2018 because there was not enough peer-reviewed scientific data to support reopening the fishery, but Spottswood resurrected the proposal again last May at the FWC monthly meeting.

The proposal has been met with mixed reaction the FWC board members, with FWC commissioners Mike Sole, Steve Hudson and Gary Nicklaus arguing against the proposal.

The FWC has not yet set a date to formally vote on the proposal.