TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Fishermen can apply to obtain one of 200 goliath grouper fishing permits that will take effect next March.

Those selected will be able to harvest goliath grouper between 24 and 36 inches long. Larger goliath grouper will still be protected.

Nearly 70,000 people have signed this Change.org petition against the move, saying they are ethically opposed to fishing the species which aren’t typically used for food.

“It’s like, when are we going to respect these animals for just being them?” asks Adam Sugalski, the Executive Director of OneProtest.

“You’re having commercial fisherman probably calling not stop like ‘hey, open up a little bit of a harvest.’ And yes, 200 may not seem like a lot, but we think it’s unethical in our opinion,” he added.

FWC said in a release that they believe this small harvest can be sustainable.

“We also look forward to collecting the post-harvest data to help guide future management decisions for this species,” said FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood.

“We have a big problem with these fish,” said Tampa-based fishing captain Cole Hernandez, who says the larger grouper are the ones causing problems for fishermen.

“They’re going out trying to catch their limit of red snapper, gag grouper, whatever the fish is, and they can’t even get them to the boat because these fish are so aggressive eating them,” Hernandez said.

Fishermen have until Oct. 30 to apply for the permits.

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