Are Goliath Grouper Still Endangered

Elaine Sutton
• Monday, 26 October, 2020
• 7 min read

It lives in shallow tropical waters at small depths that range from 16 to 164 feet (5 – 50 meters) among coral and artificial reefs. The Atlantic goliathgrouper can grow until it reaches approximately 8.2 ft (2.5 m) long and it weighs about 790 lb (360 kg).

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(Source: mission-blue.org)


Although the Atlantic goliathgrouper seems to be scary for its large size and even wide mouth, it is not extremely dangerous but it is courageous. Being fearless and delicious at the same time is not good for this fish as these two factors are the main reasons behind making it highly sought after by fishermen and thus harvesting it in large numbers.

Treating this fish in such a cruel way was the main reason behind making it endangered and this is why it was necessary to protect it and entirely ban harvesting it. The Atlantic goliathgrouper is fearless which means that it is not scared easily and this is why it attacks different creatures in the sea even divers and the 11 feet lemon sharks.

The Atlantic goliathgrouper eats most of what it can attack and this includes barracudas, octopus, fish, young sea turtles, crustaceans and even sharks. Its range includes the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys in the United States, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and most of the Brazilian coast.

Scientists from our Southeast Fisheries Science Center are working to understand the changes that have occurred in coral reef ecosystems following the loss of top predators, such as groupers. The once common Nassau grouper (Epimetheus stratus) and goliathgrouper (E. Tamara) have been so depleted that they are under complete protection from the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean.

From 1997-2005, our researchers collaborated with Florida State University's Institute for Fishery Resource Ecology (Dr. Chris Koenig and Dr. Felicia Coleman) to monitor the status and recovery of goliathgrouper. This goliathgrouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization.

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(Source: mission-blue.org)

With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of goliathgrouper in both the Gulf of Mexico and more recently, the South Atlantic. Posters created by the Center of Marine Conservation help disseminate information about our project and its requirements, highlighting our tagging study and the morphology of goliathgrouper.

Given that these groupers were afforded protected status, researchers worked to utilize and develop novel non-lethal techniques to procure and analyze biological samples for life history information. These casualties, resulting from red tide, gave our biologists a unique opportunity to collect a multitude of biological samples, without having to sacrifice healthy animals.

From these decomposing carcasses, biologists were able to record length for use in an age/length relationship, and were able to extract monoliths and remove dorsal spines and rays for comparison of hard parts in age and growth analysis. Tissue samples were also removed and sent to the Florida Marine Research Institute, so they could evaluate the level of red tide toxin.

The sampling trip gave these biologists an opportunity to educate the curious beach goers about red tide and goliathgrouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees). Attempts to evaluate the data needed to assess the status of these depleted stocks and develop rebuilding plans present unique challenges.

In 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries convened a benchmark goliathgrouper assessment for the continental U.S. population. This project would not have been possible without ongoing collaboration with researchers from Florida State University, Everglades National Park, and the recreational fishing and SCUBA diving communities.

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(Source: bestreviewof.com)

Cleats died on Friday, and the initial results of a crops shows the likely cause of death was advanced age. “RIP Cleats, being a 25year old Tampa native that has spent time visiting and volunteering at Flag, I can honestly say I’ve grown up with this fish and it's very sad to see him pass, but amazing how many people he impacted,” wrote Chris Jacobs.

The longest verified life span for a goliathgrouper on record is 37 years, according to the aquarium. They live mostly in shallow tropical waters among coral reefs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys to the Caribbean.

Harvesting the species in the southeast U.S. was prohibited in 1990, allowing the goliathgrouper to rebound. Editor’s note: This story was updated with the latest information about Cleats’ likely cause of death from the Florida Aquarium.

The GoliathGrouper, Epimetheus Tamara, is the largest grouper found in the North Atlantic. The aggregation of large numbers of the fish in a small area during the spawning season attracted commercial and sports fishermen to the species.

With fishing no longer affecting its numbers, scientists searched for other potential threats to the goliathgrouper. Mosquito control measures and water drainage projects in the Everglades have both impacted heavily on the Florida mangrove swamps.

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(Source: mission-blue.org)

The loss of the waterways making up part of its nursery will not aid in the recovery of goliathgrouper numbers. A rapid increase in dinoflagellates of the species Karina breves is responsible for the marked color change of the sea.

As well as changing the color of seawater, Karina breves produces a neurotoxin, called breve toxin, which is deadly to many fish. Scientists from National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) examine these fish to ascertain which species are threatened by red tide events.

When you think of the largest fish in the ocean, images of sharks, marlins and even tuna probably come to mind first. Another one you’d be wise to start considering is the Atlantic goliathgrouper, a huge saltwater fish that leisurely swims in reefs and mangroves between North Carolina and Brazil, and also those along the West African coast.

Goliath groupers, which mostly feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, have been known to weigh in at over 700 pounds. Atlantic GoliathGrouper, by Albert KOK via Creative CommonsDuring a recent visit to the Georgia Aquarium, a guide was sharing interesting facts about the “Tropical Diver” exhibit.

This species is deemed critically endangered by the IUCN because of its reproductive issues (slow growth, late sexual maturity) and overfishing. Groups like Florida State University’s Coleman & Keening Laboratory are promoting mangrove protection and trying to shift the public’s perception of the goliathgrouper as being nothing more than a big, lazy nuisance.

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(Source: www.sciencephoto.com)

While they opportunistically take anglers, snappers, and groupers, these species represent a small portion of their diet with them primarily consuming bait fish and crustaceans. There are many unknowns in the life history and biology, especially maximum age, which makes it challenging to determine the status of the fishery,” McCauley says.

But, Tom Ingram, CEO of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, says the science behind Goliath groupers is not solid enough to support the need to harvest. We believe that FCC, or NOA, or another appropriate organization should undertake another thorough stock assessment of the goliathgrouper to include research on age prior to opening the fishery at all, or even considering it,” Ingram says.

The brothers love host Josh Jorgensen’s high energy and knack for reeling in the big ones. The Pointers reeled in some rare, large fish, including an extremely endangeredGoliathgrouper, weighing 400 pounds.

Robert Poitier surprised his boys with a trip to fish with Jorgensen over the summer. The family from Georgia flew into West Palm Beach and spent two days out on the water where they snagged the catch of a lifetime.

Thirty to forty Goliath groupers under the boat,” Poitier excitedly explained. 10-year-old Max Poitier with his first catch, a 250-pound Goliath grouper. His little brother and dad weren’t to be left out.

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(Source: www2.padi.com)

Brendan shows off his Goliath grouper. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, Goliath groupers are the largest members of the sea bass family. “Catch and release is a great conservation strategy, but simply letting a fish go does not guarantee it will live,” NOAA says on its website.

Size: They are one of the largest members of the sea bass family; reaching lengths up to 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and weights of 800 pounds (363 kg). Communication: They will quiver with an open mouth and produce a rumbling sound to defend their territory and to locate others of their kind.

After spawning, the fertilized eggs hatch into larvae, spend about six weeks in open water and then settle in shallow mangrove habitats. Habitat/range: Goliath groupers inhabit rocky shores, shallow reefs, ledges, dock pilings and wrecks, where caves and holes can protect them at depths of 15 -150 feet (4.6-45.6 m).

They are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Congo and from Florida down to Brazil, the Caribbean Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico.

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1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grouper
2 www.tigerdroppings.com - https://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/food-and-drink/grouper--sea-bass/13014001/
3 www.allfishingbuy.com - http://www.allfishingbuy.com/Fish-Species/Groupers-Sea-Bass-Family-Species.htm
4 www.inlandseafood.com - https://www.inlandseafood.com/seapedia/grouper-cheeks
5 www.berkeleywellness.com - https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/types-fish
6 www.thebassbarn.com - https://www.thebassbarn.com/threads/seabass-grouper-triggers-and-sore-arms.208892/
7 discoversouthcarolina.com - https://discoversouthcarolina.com/articles/sc-fresh-catch-grouper
8 www.ebay.com - https://www.ebay.com/itm/Basslet-by-Mostly-Animals-fish-bass-ocean-reef-sea-fishy-grouper-salt-water-tuna-/154254321531