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 Goliath groupers 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.
Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic goliathgrouper 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. This makes them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting while breeding.
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 goliathgrouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time.
Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. Tamara. 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 goliathgrouper 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.
^ Lovato, Cleo nice Maria Cardozo; Soars, Bruno Clears; Begot, Tiago Octavio Buffalo; Montage, Luciano Coach de Assis (January 2016). “Tidal pools as habitat for juveniles of the Goliath grouper Epimetheus Tamara (Lichtenstein 1822) in the Amazonian coastal zone, Brazil”.
Risky, Delaney C.; Bakenhaster, Micah D.; Adams, Douglas H. (2015). “ 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. Historically, the goliathgrouper was relatively common and highly conspicuous in portions of its range.
In the western Atlantic Ocean goliathgrouper are found from Florida to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. In the Eastern Atlantic they occurred from Senegal south to the Congo; however, this population is believed to have been eliminated because no individuals have been observed there for many years.
The species has since been protected in Brazil (2002), Puerto Rico (2004) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (2004), but fishing continues in other parts of its range. Following the granting of protected species status, abundance in Florida has appeared to increase over the past two decades, but the extent of the recovery is not clearly understood.
Likewise, information on the perceived increase in abundance is limited, and it is difficult for fisheries managers to truly understand the extent to which the species has recovered throughout its geographic range. This perception is reinforced by the fact that goliathgrouper will opportunistically prey upon hooked or speared fish.
Many anglers and divers are now concerned that the goliathgrouper ’s protected status has resulted in abundance levels that do not represent a natural ecosystem balance. Adult Goliath groupers are generally sedentary and have small home ranges, making them more vulnerable to spearfishing.
The fact that they form predictable spawning aggregations further increases susceptibility to fishing pressure. Goliath grouper are dispersal spawners, meaning eggs and sperm are released and mixed in the water column during spawning.
Juveniles settle in shallow estuaries habitats, where they reside for several years before moving offshore. Juveniles remain in mangrove habitat for the first five to six years of life, and then move offshore when they reach about 3 feet.
Abundant food and shelter result in high survival and fairly rapid growth of 4.5-6 inches per year during the juvenile phase. As with juveniles, adult Goliath groupers also have a tendency to remain at one site for extended periods.
Juveniles moving out of mangrove habitat may disperse far and wide until they establish a more permanent home range. One juvenile tagged in the Ten A Thousand Islands was recaptured on the central east coast in the Indian River area.
To date, goliathgrouper stomach content analysis has documented that about 85% of their diet consists of crustaceans, mostly crabs. This measures the relative concentration of certain molecules like oxygen and carbon in body tissue to help scientists understand links in the marine food web.
Results show that Goliath groupers occupy a relatively low position on the food chain, about on the same level as the tiny pinkish, a common bait fish. Thus, the results tend to confirm that goliathgrouperdo not usually eat high-level predators such as groupers and snappers.
However, the perception that goliathgrouper are consuming healthy groupers and snappers is not supported by scientific evidence. Consequently, the number of goliathgrouper observed concentrated over structure during the day may not represent all that are actually present.
Since protective measures were implemented in 1990, anecdotal accounts and directed research efforts indicate increasing abundance of goliathgrouper throughout Florida. The most recent stock assessment (2004) indicated that goliathgrouper in Florida waters were recovering, but that the population may not experience full recovery until 2020 or later.
Because the harvest of goliathgrouper is prohibited, the conclusions of the stock assessment were made in the absence of certain types of biological information (e.g., age structure, sex ratio) that are typically available for other species through the examination of harvested individuals. Citizen volunteers have played an important role in assessing Goliath grouper abundance and locating spawning aggregations.
Although useful, these data do not consistently include size distribution or standardized sampling throughout seasons. Everglades National Park Angler Surveys: Detailed catch and effort data collected during volunteer dockside interviews of recreational anglers from within Everglades National Park show a substantial decline in abundance during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Since the moratorium in 1990, the abundance of juveniles within ENP, which includes critical nursery habitat for this species, has increased considerably. Anglers and divers can provide valuable assistance by reporting observations of tagged Goliath grouper (see information below).
Citizen volunteers have played an important role in helping scientists evaluate the recovery of goliathgrouper and also in identifying spawning aggregations. Their skeletal structure cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage.
The Atlantic goliathgrouper, like most groupers, is an ambush predator and eats fairly large fishes and invertebrates and even small sharks. Throughout most of the year, low numbers of the Atlantic Goliath groupers are observed in any one place.
However, during reproduction (immediately after the full moons between June and December), they come together in groups of at least 100 individuals. These groups are known as spawning aggregations, and they form at relatively few places throughout the species’ range.
Though they were likely naturally rare, scientists believe that destructive fishing practices have reduced the numbers of the Atlantic Goliath groupers by at least 80% and that the species is now critically endangered. These fish utilize the same, few locations and same, few days for spawning every year, so their presence is quite predictable.
Furthermore, a total lack of fear of people makes them an easy target for spear fishers. Finally, the Atlantic goliathgrouper ’s large size, slow growth, and ease of capture all contribute to slow its recovery, even where laws have been put in place to give it some or complete legal protection from fishing (e.g., in the USA and Brazil).
It is important to continue to monitor Atlantic goliathgrouper population trends in order to determine whether the species is recovering or if stronger legal protection may be required. The two species are similar in both appearance and behavior, but little is known about the population trends or conservation status of the Pacific goliathgrouper.