Can You Eat Goliath Grouper? (New Regulations In FL!)

The Atlantic Goliath Grouper, previously known as the jewfish, is the largest grouper species in the Atlantic Ocean and is known to reach upwards of 800 lbs and grow up to 8 feet long!

For more than 32 years, there has been a ban on harvesting goliath grouper, and in 2022 that all changed.

So…can you eat Goliath Grouper? And if so, How?

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Can You Eat Goliath Grouper?

Goliath Grouper are edible, and for the first time in over 30 years, anglers in the state of Florida can apply for a Goliath Grouper harvest permit. Otherwise, they are a strictly protected and regulated species rarely consumed in North America.

So, what happened?

Well, due to their enormous size, goliath grouper gained major popularity in their heyday.

They were regarded as a nutritious and high-quality seafood item and were heavily consumed. So much so, that in the 70s and 80s they became victims of overfishing, mainly by spearfishermen and freedivers.

Can You Eat Goliath Grouper? (New Regulations In FL!)

Overfishing, combined with habitat destruction, spawning behaviors, and low reproduction rates- caused a fatal population decline in the species and regulatory agencies took notice.

In the 90s they were deemed “Critically Endangered” by the World Conservation Union and have been under heavy protection and harvest laws within state and federal waters ever since.

So for the past 32 years, it has actually been forbidden to eat goliath grouper!

However, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has recently lifted this ban and announced that there will be a “highly regulated limited harvest” of goliath grouper for Florida Anglers as early as March 2023.

FWC is going to offer a limited lottery for anglers to apply for a harvest permit. If selected, permitted anglers will be able to harvest 1 goliath grouper in select areas, as long as it is within the slot limit size of 24″-36″ total length.

For more information on dates and permitting on this limited harvest program see the Goliath Grouper Harvest Program. If you have ever wanted to try eating one of these giant grouper, now may be your chance!

What Does Goliath Grouper Taste Like?

Until just recently, the last time you could legally eat Goliath Grouper was 20-30 years ago before harvest bans were enacted, so you may need to ask your grandpa for his opinion!

Smaller Goliath Grouper (less than 20 pounds) taste very similar to gag grouper, black grouper, and tripletail. Salty, dense with a semi-sweet undertone great for the grill or fryer.

It’s the big ones you want to avoid, and part of the reason why the new harvest program has a strict slot limit of 24″-36″ inches.

The larger and older the fish, the more course and rubbery their meat becomes. In fact, large goliath grouper over 40 pounds tend to have worms, with a very dense and fishy meat texture.

Are Goliath Grouper Good To Eat?

Goliath grouper is said to closely resemble the taste of Triple Tail and is not as tender as other smaller grouper species like the hind, or strawberry grouper.

But they are said to be very good to eat. n my opinion, there’s no better way to eat fresh fish than with a little butter, lemon, and seasoning on the grill. Grouper is a great fish that takes on the flavors of the seasonings you mix it with well. Be careful to not overpower with flavor though.

Although they are known to have low-fat content, high protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and a plethora of beneficial vitamins and minerals, goliath grouper are also known to be high in mercury.

They’re a top food chain predator and can live as long as 37 years, making them more susceptible to environmental toxins.

Are Goliath Grouper Safe To Eat?

Goliath grouper, especially the older aged ones, are known to contain dangerously high levels of methylmercury.

Methylmercury is a highly toxic compound and was the cause of one of the worst instances of mercury poisoning in modern history.

The smaller the grouper the better. With the new limited harvest program, anglers will only be permitted to keep Goliaths ranging from 24” – 36” in total length, which will likely be in the 30-pound weight class for these fish.

Goliath Grouper Alternatives

Currently, FWC is only issuing 200 Goliath Grouper harvest permits per year. This means the chances are drawing a permit are slim, but the good news is there are plenty of Goliath Grouper alternatives.

Gag grouper, Black grouper, Triple Tail and Halibut all share a similar texture and flavor to Goliath Grouper. They each offer a thick robust fillet, with a salty and sweet undertone.

Large Goliath Grouper swimming

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Spear Goliath Grouper?

No, Goliath Grouper are closed to harvest by spear or gig. They are a strictly catch-and-release species in the state of Florida, unless you have won a harvest permit through the Goliath Grouper lottery.

Is Goliath Grouper Poisonous?

Goliath Grouper are not poisonous and do not contain natural toxins, however, they are known to contain high levels of mercury which can be harmful.

Are Goliath Grouper Aggressive?

Large Goliath Grouper have been known to show aggression toward divers, especially if they are spearfishing and have dead fish or lobster. But in most cases, this is just aggressive feeding tactics not natural aggression toward people.

Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.

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