Are Groupers Endangered

Elaine Sutton
• Wednesday, 25 November, 2020
• 7 min read

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 Goliath grouper, a huge saltwater fish that leisurely swims in reefs and mangroves between North Carolina and Brazil, and also those along the West African coast.

nassau grouper bahamas endangered protected fish reef vulnerable groupers coral florida threats reefs
(Source: rollingharbour.com)


Goliath groupers, which mostly feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, have been known to weigh in at over 700 pounds. Atlantic Goliath Grouper, 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. Thankfully, the population has slowly rebounded over the past 20+ years in Florida.

Groups like Florida State University’s Coleman & Keening Laboratory are promoting mangrove protection and trying to shift the public’s perception of the Goliath grouper as being nothing more than a big, lazy nuisance. 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 Goliath grouper can grow until it reaches approximately 8.2 ft (2.5 m) long and it weighs about 790 lb (360 kg). Although the Atlantic Goliath grouper 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.

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(Source: mission-blue.org)

The Atlantic Goliath grouper 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 Goliath grouper eats most of what it can attack and this includes barracudas, octopus, fish, young sea turtles, crustaceans and even sharks.

Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Performed Family: Serranidae Subfamily: Epinephrine Genus: Epimetheus Species: Binomial name Epimetheus stratus Synonyms Antics stratus Bloch, 1792 Serra nus stratus (Bloch, 1792) Antics China Bloch & Schneider, 1801 Sparks chrysomelanus Labeled, 1802 Serra nus gymnopareius Valentines, 1828 A Nassau grouper, E. stratus, ambushes its prey on the Caribbean coral reefs. The Nassau grouper is a medium to large fish, growing to over a meter in length and up to 25 kg in weight.

Superimposed on this base color are a number of lighter stripes, darker spots, bars, and patterns, including black spots below and behind the eye, and a forked stripe on the top of the head. By the light of the full moon, huge numbers of the grouper cluster together to mate in mass spawning.

However, its numbers have been sharply reduced by overfishing in recent years, and it is a slow breeder. Furthermore, its historic spawning areas are easily targeted for fishing, which tends to remove the reproductively active members of the group.

The species is therefore highly vulnerable to overexploitation, and is recognized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The governments of the United States, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas have banned or instituted closed fishing seasons for the Nassau grouper in recent years.

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

In the Cayman Islands, fishing in the spawning holes of the grouper has been banned until the end of 2016. A large spawning site for the species is located at Glover's Reef, off the Belizean coast.

It has been identified as one of only two viable sites remaining for the species, of 9 originally known locations. However, the Nassau grouper's spawning region is not included in this marine protected area (MPA).

Many conservation methods have been put in place to help the grouper, including closed seasons, when fishing is not allowed. Some areas are protected, a complete ban on fishing the grouper in US waters has been instituted.

However, analysis of declines in both populations and the size spawning aggregations has led to the species being uplifted to critically endangered by the IUCN Red List in 2018. The Nassau grouper has been depicted on postage stamps of Cuba (1965, 1975), the Bahamas (1971 5-cent), and Antigua and Barbuda (1987 40-c).

The Nassau grouper was placed on the World Conservation Union's realist of threatened species in 1996, and it was determined to be endangered because its population has declined by 60% in the past 30 years. Over a third of spawning aggregations have been estimated to have disappeared, and the grouper is considered to be commercially extinct in some areas.

grouper goliath florida endangered fish groupers scuba critically killing protect fishing mission diving underwater sea monster stearns walt
(Source: mission-blue.org)

^ Shcherbina, Andrey; Glen G. Gawarkiewicz; Christopher A. Liner; Simon R. Horror (Sep 2008). “Mapping bathymetric and hydrographic features of Glover's Reef, Belize, with a REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle” (PDF).

^ “Nassau Grouper, Epimetheus stratus (Bloch 1792) Biological Report” 2014. Which is why there are closed seasons for certain fish, ensuring a time when they can be left alone to breed in peace and to perpetuate their species.

They are mostly found in the Northern Bahamas but only the Nassau grouper is on the IUCN Red List as an Endangered Species in need of protection. Sad to say, mankind is the main cause of the population fragility that has led to the official listing, and the imposition of a strict closed season for 3 months between December 1st and February 28th.

Scientific studies have shown that commercial overfishing has reduced a thriving population to fewer than 10,000 mature fish. An adult can grow to more than a meter long, and weigh 25 kg They tend to be solitary daytime feeders, eating small fish & crustaceans Their large mouths are used to ‘inhale’ or suck in prey The coloring of an individual can vary from red to brown These fish have little black spots around the eyes (I’ve no idea why).

If people want to commit the time and resources, deciding the benefits of recovering these species are greater than the cost, then their future could be different.” Adding to 2018 assessments on 16 populations, this year Comedic focused on 12 southern groups whose numbers are significantly augmented by large-scale hatcheries.

grouper species nassau threatened
(Source: keepamericafishing.org)

He stressed small community hatcheries have a negligible impact on wild salmon and often benefit smaller depleted runs. B.C.’s iconic Chinook salmon have high cultural value to First Nations, and are also an economic driver worth hundreds of millions of dollars to both the tourism and commercial fishing industries.

The human appetite for Chinook is also in competition with more than 100 marine and land animals that favor the food source. PSF Science advisor Brian Rid dell emphasized the need for limiting hatchery fish to 30 per cent of a stock, and approaching the unique needs of each wild population individually.

Joy Harrelson, president of the United Fishermen And Allied Workers’ Union agreed, adding all species of hatchery fish are vital to the commercial sector. “As habitat has been destroyed there’s been more populations that are at risk, but they’ve been replaced by hatchery fish, so we can continue to catch food.

B.C.’s new parliamentary secretary for fisheries and oceans, Fin Donnelly, has been given a list of mandates to protect and conserve wild salmon populations, including the order to “support innovation in fish hatcheries”. Aaron Hill, executive director for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society worries this will translate to a robust hatchery program that caters to the economic needs of fisheries, and not the needs of the wild fish themselves.

The PSF’s scientific review of hatchery impacts will play a critical role in informing the province’s approach, Donnelly added. The full Comedic study will be formally submitted to the environment ministry in the fall of 2021, at which time the Species at Risk Act listing process will begin for the assessed Chinook populations.

grouper florida species goliath epinephelus itajara keys endangered alamy
(Source: www.alamy.com)

Trump administration officials are expected to say this week whether the monarch butterfly, a colorful and familiar backyard visitor now caught in a global extinction crisis, should receive federal designation as a threatened species. Stepped-up use of farm herbicides, climate change and destruction of milkweed plants on which they depend have caused a massive decline of the orange-and-black butterflies, which long have flitted over meadows, gardens and wetlands across the U.S.

This year's count, though not yet official, is expected to show only about 2,000 there, said Marina Jensen, director of the endangered species program at the Xerxes Society conservation group. The agency could propose or decline to list the butterfly as threatened, which means likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or much of its range.

A recommendation to designate the butterfly as threatened would be followed by a yearlong period to take public comment and reach a final decision. Listing it “would guarantee that the monarch would get a comprehensive recovery plan and ongoing funding,” said Terra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

If the status is granted, federal agencies would have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about potential harm to monarchs from actions proposed for government funding or permitting, such as expanding interstate highways. Foray “Chip” Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas, agreed the butterfly's long-term prognosis is grim but said he opposes a federal listing for now, fearing it would sour many rural residents on helping the monarch.

Milkweed can reduce crop yields and sicken livestock that eat it, “so farmers have spent decades trying to get rid of it,” said Laura Campbell of the Michigan Farm Bureau, which has participated in a statewide monarch recovery program. Numerous organizations and individuals are working to restore monarch habitat, focusing on backyard gardens as well as highway and utility corridors.

grouper goliath florida endangered critically protect killing areas mission protected marine macwilliams wayne
(Source: mission-blue.org)

“But a lot is happening that's taking away habitat at the same time,” said Karen Oberhausen, a restoration ecologist and arboretum director at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She visits the Missouri state fair, schools and elder care homes, pleading the case for preserving monarch and other native butterflies.

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1 gulfcouncil.org - https://gulfcouncil.org/fishing-regulations/yellowedge-grouper-epinephelus-flavolimbatus/
2 safmc.net - https://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/yellowedge-grouper-2/
3 www.electricbluefishing.com - https://www.electricbluefishing.com/fish/Yellowedge_Grouper.htm
4 www.espn.com - https://www.espn.com/outdoors/fishing/news/story
5 www.youtube.com - https://www.youtube.com/watch
6 ultimatefishingsite.net - http://ultimatefishingsite.net/grouper-fishing/types-of-grouper/