[Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters

Martin Stelfox martinrstelfox at gmail.com
Mon Nov 5 09:16:39 EST 2012

Dear Dr. Frias-Torres.

As you well know, Goliath groupers are classed as critically
endangered and are under immense pressure due to anthropogenic stress.
I think that the work and research you are doing is extremely valuable
for the future of the species, however, I do agree with Stacy on how
the species interaction is portrayed in the YouTube video.

I have worked on numerous conservation projects around the world and I
have worked with and educated many non scientific minded individuals
on current issues within marine biology. I think the most important
tool we have as educators is to take people on an experience that
completely removes them from what they are used to, bringing  in an
emotional experience that could change the way they perceive an
environment or trigger an interest which may be passed on.

To address the problem to SCUBA divers with footage of Goliath
groupers being touched by scientists I think sends out completely the
wrong message. For the average SCUBA diver, touching organisms is
something they do not consider to be a problem in the ecosystem - when
in fact it is. Unnecessarily   disrupting natural behaviour, not to
mention the potential hazard to individual divers by touching
something they shouldn’t. I agree that the video should be
reconsidered, as the target audience must understand that interfering
with an organism’s behaviour and physiology is both understudied and
harmful to the organisms and the individual.


Martin Stelfox,

On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 4:34 PM, sjk012 <sjk012 at knights.ucf.edu> wrote:
> 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.
> Stacy
> 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.
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4Ho87oiUo4
> You can learn more about goliath groupers in my recent paper
> http://grouperluna.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/guilt-free-goliath-groupers/
> Enjoy
> Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Independent ScientistTwitter: @GrouperDocBlog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.comhttp://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres
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