[Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters

sjk012 sjk012 at knights.ucf.edu
Sun Nov 4 11:34:56 EST 2012

Dear Dr. Frias-Torres and Coral-listers,

Is this really the message we are wanting to share with the public?? To approach and touch wild animals, more shockingly a Critically Threatened animal! I am incredibly disappointed that academics and avid divers would take part in this action, let alone film such an inappropriate act. And to top it off, post it in on a globally accessible site such a youtube. 

As conservationist we should be spreading the "look don't touch" and "keep wildlife wild" messages. Portraying these animals as gentle giants further threatens their population. This video clearly demonstrates that touching and approaching wildlife is OK, and it is NOT. While I agree this was an amazing opportunity to see these creatures in the wild, the continuous act of rubbing, touching, and "petting" these fish is unacceptable. 

Goliath groupers are ambush predators that use powerful suction to draw in their pray. This suction is strong enough to pull in a human's arm and their sharp rows of teeth can shred that person's hand and arm trying to remove it. These divers are very luckly they did not get injured and promoting this action with a video threatens other divers and threatens reef fish. Fish become stressed when they are touched and the mucus layer, which is the first line of defense against disease, is disrupted. It is quite possible that this invasive encounter by humans during their spawning period was enough to disrupt their activity that night, but the physical touching clearly detracted the animals risking the reproductive act and likely caused aggression.

I highly encourage that this video is removed from youtube and that  Dr. Frias-torres et al. rethink the messages the video portrays...I don't think touching critically endangered animals during spawning, or touching any wild animal for that matter, will ever be a good conservation message to share with the public. 

Aquatic and Conservation Biologist

From: Sarah Frias-Torres [sfrias_torres at hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, November 02, 2012 12:42 PM
To: coral list
Subject: [Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters

Dear coral-listers
Just wanted to share some extraordinary encounters with a charismatic coral reef fish we almost lost to extinction: the goliath grouper.
We dove a wreck at night, in southeast Florida during this year's spawning aggregation season. We were fortunate to have a couple of filmmakers on board who produced this video, including the text provided in You Tube.
The 6.5 minute video is not addressed to scientists but to the SCUBA diving community. An example of reaching out beyond academic research.
I'm the diver with a yellow bandana around minute 5.

You can learn more about goliath groupers in my recent paper


Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Independent ScientistTwitter: @GrouperDocBlog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.comhttp://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres

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