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Are Goliath Groupers A Protected Species

author
Carole Stephens
• Tuesday, 29 December, 2020
• 8 min read

As a result, Goliath grouper (the continental U.S. distinct population segment) was removed from the species of concern list (71 FR 61022). 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.

grouper goliath endangered florida critically protect save killing ocean mission
(Source: mission-blue.org)

Contents

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 Goliath grouper. This Goliath grouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization.

With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of Goliath grouper 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 Goliath grouper.

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. Researchers have also determined that soft dorsal rays hold promise for aging older fish (Marie et al., 2008).

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 Goliath grouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees).

grouper florida species protected goliath
(Source: www.gettyimages.com)

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 Goliath grouper assessment for the continental U.S. population.

Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Performed Family: Serranidae Subfamily: Epinephrine Genus: Epimetheus Species : Binomial name Epimetheus Tamara Synonyms Promiscuous Tamara (Lichtenstein, 1822) Serra nus Tamara Lichtenstein, 1822 Serra nus Menelik Valentines, 1828 Serra nus gales J.P. Müller & Trochee, 1848 Serra nus guava Play, 1860 Promiscuous one Ehrenberg, 1915 Promiscuous ditto Roux & Collision, 1954 The Atlantic Goliath grouper or Tamara (Epimetheus Tamara), also known as the Jewish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 164 ft).

Its range includes the Florida Keys in the US, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean and most of the Brazilian coast. On some occasions, it is caught off the coasts of the US states of New England off Maine and Massachusetts.

In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from the Congo to Senegal. Young Atlantic goliathgroupers may live in brackish estuaries, oyster beds, canals, and mangrove swamps, which is unusual behavior among groupers.

They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and can weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb). The world record for a hook-and-line-captured specimen is 308.44 kg (680.0 lb), caught off Fernanda Beach, Florida, in 1961.

grouper goliath florida fish keys ocean atlantic marine giant protected species mote key line study fishes diving aquarium thread noaa
(Source: mote.org)

Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic Goliath grouper were a highly sought-after quarry for fishermen. It is a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen because of the grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature.

They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning annually to the same locations. Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline.

The fish is recognized as “vulnerable” globally and “endangered” in the Gulf of Mexico. The species population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish's slow growth rate, however, some time will be needed for populations to return to their previous levels.

Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, which refer to organisms that are born female and at some point in their lifespans change sex to male. Males can be sexually mature at about 115 centimeters (45 in), and ages 4–6 years.

In May 2015, the Atlantic Goliath grouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time. Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. Tamara.

grouper goliath protected endangered species offshore
(Source: www.gettyimages.com)

In tidal pools juvenile E.Tamara are able to utilize rocky crevices for shelter. Besides shelter, tidal pools provide E. Tamara with plenty of prey such as lobster and porcelain crab.

The Atlantic Goliath grouper has historically been referred to as the “Jewish”. It may have referred to the fish's status as inferior leading it to be declared only suitable for Jews, or the flesh having a “clean” taste comparable to kosher food ; it has also been suggested that this name is simply a corruption of jaw fish or the Italian word for “bottom fish”, Giuseppe.

In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because of complaints that it was culturally insensitive. Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Tamara in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Pseudorhabdosynochus species (Monogenoidea, Diplectanidae) parasitizing groupers (Serranidae, Epinephrine, Epinephrine) in the western Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters, with descriptions of 13 new species ". Wikimedia Commons has media related to Epimetheus Tamara.

Photo courtesy Oaths large, solitary fish will defend its territory when threatened, with aggressive body language and a rumbling sound it makes with its swim bladder. Its large, thick, elongated body can grow to over 8 feet long (and up to 800 pounds), from rounded snout and small eyes, to short, fan-like tail fin.

goliath groupers grouper florida endangered critically protect killing mission mag stearns walt
(Source: mission-blue.org)

Usually it is a mottled yellow-brown to gray with darker bard and spots, ideal for blending in to their rocky coral and muddy inshore habitat. Other names are Baden (Portuguese), campus (Portuguese), hernia gig ante (Italian), China (Spanish), group (Portuguese), gran morgue (Iranian), guava (Spanish), data (Japanese), harbor (Norwegian), havsabborre (Swedish), Tamara Vienna (Polish), Judaism (Norwegian), hero guava (Spanish), hero (French), orphan (Turkish), raitameriahven (Finnish), Sophos (Greek), scarring (Italian), tip (Palikir), Atari (Icelandic), and zackenbarsch (German).

A 450 pound Goliath grouper caught by Buddy Junks at the Big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier, Florida (1976). Photo courtesy Kenneth Krzysztof historical importance to commercial fisheries, the Goliath grouper has also long been prized by recreational and sport fishers.

Spear fishers find this fish easy to approach; hence in locations accessible to divers their numbers have declined. The large size, slow growth, low reproductive rate, and spawning behavior have made the Goliath grouper especially susceptible to overfishing.

The Goliath grouper is totally protected from harvest and is recognized as a “Critically Endangered” species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Furthermore, the IUCN concludes that the species has been “observed, estimated, inferred or suspected” of a reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations.

Historical exploitation of Goliath grouper annual spawning aggregation sites greatly reduced the number of reproductive adults. Occurring in shallow, inshore waters to depths of 150 feet (46 m), the Goliath grouper prefers areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms.

grouper goliath species protected jewfish endangered offshore
(Source: www.gettyimages.ca)

It is territorial near areas of refuge such as caves, wrecks, and ledges, displaying an open mouth and quivering body to intruders. Additional warning may be delivered in the form of the Goliath grouper’s ability to produce a distinctly audible rumbling sound generated by the muscular contraction of the swim bladder.

Photo courtesy NOAA Distinctive Features Goliath grouper are the largest members of the sea bass family in the Atlantic Ocean. Coloration This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on head, body, and fins.

The rear half of the caudal peduncle of these small individuals is covered by another similar bar. The presence of a number of short weakly developed canine teeth is useful in distinguishing this species from other North Atlantic groupers.

However, this specimen was sampled from a population of individuals depressed by fishing pressure and it is projected that Goliath grouper may live much longer, perhaps as much as 50 years. Photo © Don Maria Food Habits Goliath grouper feed largely on crustaceans (in particular spiny lobsters, shrimps and crabs), fishes (including stingrays and parrot fishes), octopus, and young sea turtles.

However, the significance of this finding is of diminished value when one considers that transitional individuals are known to be rare amongst confirmed species of protogynous hermaphrodites, such as the red grouper (Epimetheus Mario) and gag (Mycteroperca microbes). Photo courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service In support of the notion that the species is a protogynous hermaphrodite is the fact that the largest goliathgroupers are invariably male. Spawning occurs during the summer months of July, August, and September throughout the Goliath grouper’s range and is strongly influenced by the lunar cycle.

grouper goliath florida fl species protected jupiter aggregation spawning during atlantic 800lbs largest itajara endangered epinephelus 1990 since 8ft reaching
(Source: www.gettyimages.com)

Ship wrecks, rock ledges, and isolated patch reefs are preferred spawning habitat. In the 1980s these aggregations reached a low of less than 10 individuals per site as fishing pressure greatly impacted this species.

Since receiving legislative protection the spawning aggregations of Goliath grouper have risen to 20-40 individuals per location. These pelagic larvae transform into benthic juveniles at lengths of one inch (2.5 cm), around 25 or 26 days after hatching.

In an 1884 work, “The fishes of the Florida Keys,” David Starr Jordan proposed the inclusion of the Goliath grouper in Epimetheus (Bloch 1793) and this combination remains in use today. Of incidental note is the fact that various authors have incorrectly spelled the specific epithet “Tamara” as “tiara.” The genus name comes from the Greek epinephelos translated as cloudy.

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Sources
1 fishingbooker.com - https://fishingbooker.com/blog/fishing-in-marathon/
2 fla-keys.com - https://fla-keys.com/marathon/fishing/
3 fishingstatus.com - https://fishingstatus.com/fishing/spots/state/fl/city/marathon
4 fishingstatus.com - http://fishingstatus.com/fishing/destination/marathon
5 www.florida-keys-vacation.com - https://www.florida-keys-vacation.com/Marathon-Fishing.html