The groupers complex is not subject to overfishing based on 2019 catch data. Black grouper grow up to five feet long and can weigh up to 180 pounds.
Black grouper take advantage of other species’ reproductive aggregations for feeding. They are particularly associated with the southern Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Cuba, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean.
Both the commercial and recreational fisheries have size limits to reduce harvest of immature black grouper. The commercial and recreational fishing seasons are closed from January through April to protect black grouper during their peak spawning period.
Minimum size limits protect immature black grouper. Year-round and/or seasonal area closures for commercial and recreational sectors to protect spawning groupers.
Groupers are managed separately by commercial and recreational sector in Puerto Rico. Seasonal closure for black, red, tiger, yellow fin, and yellow edge groupers from February 1 through April 30.
Similar Species: Gag, M. microbes (spur on properly is serrated); and yellow fin grouper, M. Vanessa (pectoral fins trimmed in bright yellow) Adults are associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep.
They are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that young predominantly female who transform into males as they grow larger. Larger individuals of this species are generally found in greater depths, and they feed on fish and squid.
Photo © Leroy Elliptic oblong reef fish has small eyes over a protruding lower jaw, and a continuous dorsal fin that leads back to its square caudal (tail) fin. It’s an olive gray color with dark blotches and bronze hexagonal shapes on its head and sides.
They prefer the rocky bottoms around reefs in the Western Atlantic, where they eat smaller fish and crustaceans, and grow to almost 52 inches long. The meat generates a fairly high price and is considered very good quality.
Ciguatera poisoning is caused by dinoflagellates (micro algae) found on dead corals or macro algae. By feeding on these corals and macro algae, herbivorous fishes accumulate a toxin generated by these dinoflagellates.
If accumulated levels of the toxin are great enough they can cause poisoning in humans whom consume the flesh of these fishes. Poisoned people report having gastrointestinal problems for up to several days, and a general weakness in their arms and legs.
Black grouper are fished both recreationally and commercially in waters around Florida, in particular the Gulf of Mexico. The IUCN is a global union of states, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations in a partnership that assesses the conservation status of species.
It is also present in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, including the Florida Keys and Cuba. Black groupers are found mainly on rocky bottoms and in coral reef environments.
Photo © George Ryschkewitsch Distinctive Features The black grouper is a large hearty fish with a protruding lower jaw. It has an ob longed body shape and rounded margins on both the dorsal and anal fins.
The preopercule is rounded without the presence of a notch, which distinguishes it from the gag grouper (Mycteroperca microbes). Black groupers are olive or gray with dark blotches and bronze spots.
These teeth are not used to tear flesh as with the barracudas and sharks, but rather to prevent small fish from escaping. Size, Age, and Growth Black groupers can reach up to 52 inches (133 cm) in length and can weigh up to 179 pounds (81 kg).
Food Habits Adult black grouper feed primarily on other smaller reef fishes, including grunts, snapper, and herrings. Since they will need to hide in the seagrass bed as well as tidal pool for protection until they are more mature.
They will also need to eat small microorganism inside the seawater such as micro algae, plankton, and even crustaceans. Then for adult grouper fish habitat, they will choose to live in the bottom area of the sea.
In their natural habitat they are able to find various fish that they feed on such as wrasse, parrot fish, snapper and dam selfish. Besides those fishes the adult grouper will also eat various other sea creatures such as crustaceans, octopus, lobster, and crab.
When it comes to their habitat, the grouper fish will stay in the same place for a long time. They will lie hidden in a place where they will wait, so they can ambush their prey that comes near into their hiding spot since their jaws are fast and powerful to do this method.
This grouper fish has form a habit to follow down an ell when they go foraging in the reef. Besides hiding, turns out grouper fish also have unique ability that allows them to change their body coloration which will give them a lot of advantage.
Another unique thing that also happens inside the grouper fish habitat is when their reproduction period arrive which usually in the full moon of winter season. However, during their reproduction period, then they will form very large school which may even consist of 100,000 grouper fish at once.
The reason why they gather in large number like this is because they want to increase the probability for their mating to be successful. Furthermore, when large amount of grouper fish spawn in the same time, then they will also have higher chance for survive.
This grouper fish is also able to control the population of other sea creature inside their habitat so it would not overpopulate the area where they live in. This is why; it is important to maintain the grouper fish population in that area and also to protect their habitat so there is no bad thing happens that can damage the entire ecosystem.
“Adult gag grouper live in nearshore waters from coastal North Carolina south to Brazil and as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller gag are a lot of lighter in coloring, and have numerous dark brown, or charcoal, kiss-like marks along their sides.
“Young gag grouper will live in oyster reefs, estuaries and seagrass beds from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The coloration of red grouper helps to distinguish this species from gag with its head and body being dark reddish brown, shading pink or reddish or even pale pink along the lower part of its body,” Nash said.
“In North Carolina, gag will typically spawn in February and have clear larvae, which then make their way into estuaries. As water temperatures start to go down in the fall, juvenile gag will migrate from estuaries to offshore hard bottom habitat and larger members of their species,” said Seward.
Seward noted that all grouper are considered protogynous intersex, “that is they start their lives as females, and a part of the population will morph, or make the change, to males as they get older. Females start to reach sexual maturity when they are about 24 inches in total length and about 3 years old.
They are voracious predators, and will feed on whatever they can capture including scad, snapper, grunt, sardines, crabs, porgies, shrimp and squid, said Seward. Red grouper sitting on sand habitat 45 degrees to camera full body view mouth open.
In addition to their color, red grouper can be distinguished from gag by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. “The red grouper is also a protogynous intersex and females are sexually mature by the time they reach 4 years old,” Seward said.
Females typically will let go an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that stay at the surface for between 30-40 days before finally settling down to the bottom. “Red grouper may live to be as old as 25 years of age, with older specimens reaching a size of 32.5 inches and up to 25 pounds.
They will feed on lobster, shrimp, octopus, crabs and fish that are found close to their preferred reef habitat,” Seward said. Bottom fishing is the best way to catch gag grouper, using live bait, including squid and cigar minnows.
Use a depth finder to find deep-water rock ledges, artificial reefs and shipwrecks, a gag grouper ’s favorite hiding place. An annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure runs Jan. 1-April 30 in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, except red grouper, for which the season remains closed until June 1.
Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for the snapper grouper species. “This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed and sold before the annual catch limit is reached and held in cold storage by a dealer,” said North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Executive Assistant to Councils Steve Poland, who is also a representative with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
A stock assessment update, Sedan 53, for red grouper was completed in February 2017 using data through 2015. Therefore, on Sept. 27, 2017, NFS sent a letter to the council stating that the South Atlantic red grouper stock was not making adequate progress toward rebuilding.
“For red grouper, this final rule extends the closure season formerly from January to April, to January through May of each year for the next ten years for the commercial and recreational portions off North and South Carolina, and establishes a commercial trip limit,” said Poland. This final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic EEA of 200 pounds, gutted weight.
The trip limit is expected to help rebuild the red grouper stock by discouraging directed commercial fishing for the species, although it is not likely to substantially reduce the current level of commercial harvest of red grouper, according to the National Register. “The council selected a commercial trip limit that in combination with extending the spawning season cloture for red grouper off North Carolina and South Carolina would help keep down harvest numbers to help rebuild the stock,” Poland said.
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