Reeling in a 45-pound grouper used to be just an average day on the water in the Florida Keys.
The abundance of behemoth fish attracted anglers from around the world in the early 1900s, including adventurers such as Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey, who pulled in monsters from the clear, warm depths off Key West.
But as Florida’s population boomed, the attraction that drew them began to vanish. Anglers were snapping up the larger fish by the thousands. An average grouper caught in the Keys now is about eight pounds.
“We were starting to look like a Third World nation in regards to having blitzed our resources,” said University of Miami marine biologist Jerald Ault.
Ault and others are studying whether putting large tracts of ocean off-limits to fishing in the Keys can help species rebound