National Park Service

South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network (SFCN)

Focal Fish Species Monitoring

Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in Dry Tortugas National Park
Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in Dry Tortugas National Park.

Monitoring Reports


Parks and partners are monitoring marine focal fish species. SFCN is not developing a protocol but will link to reports and summaries.

Resource Briefs, Reports, and Data

There are currently no additional SFCN resource briefs, reports, or data concerning this monitoring topic.



Focal fish species includes large predatory fish that are popular targets of fisherman and thus of particular concern for management. Community status, structure and trends can reflect changes in marine habitat quality, food-web structure, fishing pressure, and long-term ecosystem resilience. Balancing resource extraction with sustainability is a key management concern.

  • Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), a top marine food-web predator, has been so over-fished that it is now a rare and protected species in the state of Florida and USVI. The Goliath Grouper has all but disappeared in the USVI, as well as the Nassau Grouper (Epinephilus striatus) although recently a number of juveniles were seen at VIIS/VICR during a University of Virgin Islands project by Rick Nemeth (Rafe Boulon, personal communication). As such, red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) in the USVI is recommended instead as a top-predator to monitor, although it is also under heavy fishing pressure.
  • Sharks, as top marine food-web predators, have been fished to such an extent that their numbers are reduced in South Florida and the USVI. Sharks mature late in life, have slow growth rates and produce few offspring.
  • The Spotted Sea Trout (Cynoscion nebulosus) is a bottom-feeding intermediate trophic level species targeted as a sport fish and for human consumption within and outside SFCN parks boundaries. It is the only major sport fish in South Florida that spends its entire life cycle in bays. Spotted Sea Trout are sensitive to hypersaline conditions and thus, may respond to changes in South Florida water management restoration. Mercury bioaccumulation is also a concern in sea trout and other long lived fish in South Florida.
  • The Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) is a euryhaline, diadromous, estuarinedependent species targeted as a sport fish and for human consumption within and outside SFCN parks boundaries. Snook are under strong fishing pressure. Prey source varies with life stage (juveniles - small fish, plants; adults - fish, crabs).

Monitoring Objectives

What are the status, trends, and variability of focal fish species within and near parks, specifically Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), Nassau Grouper (Epinephilus striatus), Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus), Sharks (Bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo), Lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), Bull (Carcharhinus leucas), and Nurse (Ginglymostoma cirratum) sharks), Spotted sea trout (Cynoscion nebulosus), and Snook (Centropomus undecimalis)?

Status and Trends

Status and trends of Florida Bay Juvenile Sportfish (spotted seatrout) are summarized by partners are as part of the RECOVER: 2009 System Status Report.


Creation of a monitoring program that is species specific is cost prohibitive at this time; however there are some efforts underway to track these species by other groups which SFCN can draw upon. SFCN will gather reports and links to web pages of existing monitoring programs including but not limited to: NOAA/NOS Allyn Powell's long-term juvenile spotted sea trout monitoring trawl study in NW Florida Bay; USVI: University of the Virgin Islands has been conducting sex ratio, size, number, and tagging on 3 species of grouper (Red Hind, Nassau and Yellow Fin) at their aggregation sites 8 miles off of St. Thomas. SFCN will gather reports and/or post links and if necessary gather data from fish community monitoring conducted by: NOAA, FWRI, territorial, and university researchers to assess distribution and occupancy of these focal species. Creel Census data from BISC, EVER, and possibly DRTO may also be used to evaluate catch in parks.

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Last Updated: March 27, 2017 Contact Webmaster