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. 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. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
^ 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. The giant of the grouper family, the Goliath (formerly called Jewish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail.
The skeletal structure of large Goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage. If a large Goliath is brought on-board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and therefore be considered harvested.
Goliath grouper populations declined throughout their range during the 1970s and 1980s due to increased fishing pressure from commercial and recreational fishers and divers. At their July 2014 meeting in Key Largo, this committee reviewed the most up-to-date scientific information on goliathgrouper and recommended a new stock assessment for this species.
As a result, the most recent stock assessment, conducted by the FCC was completed in June 2016 (Sedan 47). The stock assessment indicates abundance in south Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990.
However, in the final step of the review process, the assessment was rejected by an independent panel of scientists for use in federal management due to a lack of reliable indicators of abundance outside south Florida. Goliath are also susceptible to large scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tide blooms.
When not feeding or spawning, adult Goliath groupers are generally solitary, sedentary and territorial. Before the goliathgrouper reaches full-size it is preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel and moray eels, as well as sandbar and hammerhead sharks.
Calico crabs make up the majority of their diet, with other invertebrate species and fish filling in the rest. Reproductive maturity first occurs in fish 5 or 6 years of age (about 36 inches in length) due to their slow growth rate.
Males mature at a smaller size (about 42 inches) and slightly younger age than females. These groups occur at consistent sites such as wrecks, rock ledges and isolated patch reefs during July, August and September.
Studies have shown fish may move up to 62 miles (100 km) from inshore reefs to these spawning sites. In southwest Florida, presumed courtship behavior has been observed during the full moons in August and September.
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.
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 goliathgrouper caught by Buddy Junks at the Big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier, Florida (1976). Photo courtesy Kenneth Krzysztof historical importance to commercial fisheries, the goliathgrouper 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 goliathgrouper especially susceptible to overfishing.
The goliathgrouper 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 goliathgrouper annual spawning aggregation sites greatly reduced the number of reproductive adults. Occurring in shallow, inshore waters to depths of 150 feet (46 m), the goliathgrouper prefers areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms.
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 goliathgrouper ’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 presence of a number of short weakly developed canine teeth is useful in distinguishing this species from other North Atlantic groupers. Photo © Don Maria Size, Age, and Growth The goliathgrouper is the largest grouper in the western Atlantic.
However, this specimen was sampled from a population of individuals depressed by fishing pressure and it is projected that goliathgrouper 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 Goliath groupers are invariably male. Spawning occurs during the summer months of July, August, and September throughout the goliathgrouper ’s range and is strongly influenced by the lunar cycle.
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 goliathgrouper 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 goliathgrouper 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.
His health started to deteriorate weeks ago, aquarium officials said. Cleats died on Friday, and the initial results of a crops shows the likely cause of death was advanced age.
The other is Gill, who is about 4½ feet long, 200 pounds and lives in the main coral reef habitat. 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. Goliath grouper occupies a wide geographic range, from Florida, including the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, and Caribbean Sea, south to Brazil.
It is also found in both the eastern Pacific and eastern Atlantic from Senegal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, it is rare in the Canary Islands. Based on a study done by Craig et al. (2009), results suggest that there are genetic differences between populations of goliathgrouper in U.S. waters and those near Belize and Brazil.
This species of grouper tends to be easily recognizable, in part, because it is the largest grouper species in western Atlantic waters. Its body is brownish yellow, gray or olive colored with irregular dark bars on its sides and small spots mostly on its head and fins.
The goliathgrouper has a very broad head with small eyes; the spiny dorsal fin is very low, and much shorter than the second dorsal fin. Juveniles are a yellowish-orange color with dark irregular vertical bands and blotches on their sides.
The adult goliathgrouper lives in shallow waters up to 328 feet (100 meters) 6, over wrecks, corals or muddy or rocky bottoms. This is one of the few grouper species also found in brackish water habitats.
Adults are territorial and occupy limited home ranges. Juvenile and young-adult fish can be found around estuaries mangroves and oyster bars.
The typical spawning season is June through October; peak spawning within the Gulf of Mexico occurs from July through September. 5 There is still some debate whether this fish transitions from female to male as there appears to be a lack of conclusive evidence that this species is a protogynous hermaphrodite.
Cryptic genetic divergence in a threatened marine fish and the resurrection of a geopolitical species. Age, growth, and reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Ithaca in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
IFA All Tackle Record, Fernanda Beach, FL Obama, S., B. Eris man, W. Haman, C. Biggs, N. Farmer, S. Lowerre-Barbieri, M. Karnataka, and J. Brenner. Cooperative monitoring program for spawning aggregations in the Gulf of Mexico: data portal.
The Ten A Thousand Islands area of Southwest Florida is one of few locations in the world where goliathgrouper have reestablished a viable population. Read below to learn more about goliathgrouper, the history of its declining and recovering population, and how you can get involved as fisheries scientists continue to research and manage this species.
Juvenile Goliath are typically more brown or tan with a more noticeable pattern of dark, blotched, vertical lines. Once they reach reproductive age, goliathgrouper form large aggregations of 100 or more individuals during the summer spawning months of July, August, and September.
These aggregations gather at shallow ledge or shoreline sites such as the mangrove forests of Ten A Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Threats Several life history traits of goliathgrouper make the species particularly vulnerable to the pressure of overfishing.
These traits include late sexual maturity, large and predictable spawning aggregations in shallow inshore waters, and strong refuge site fidelity. For example, found approximately two hours north of Ten A Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Tampa Bay is one of the largest ports in the United States.
It is estimated that over the past 100 years the area has lost over 44% of its mangroves and salt marshes due to heavy human development and traffic. Coral reefs are susceptible to degradation through natural factors including hurricanes, El Niño events, and diseases.
Reefs are also degraded through human action such as overfishing, damaging fishing practices, development, pollution, ocean acidification, and irresponsible tourism. Once abundant and growing to massive, reproductively mature sizes, goliathgrouper have suffered significant population declines attributed to overfishing and habitat loss.
While the species is showing clear signs of recovery in South Florida, the true status of the population remains uncertain. Based on recovery trends throughout the past decade, goliathgrouper are no longer classified as a species of concern in U.S. waters.
Yet, goliathgrouper remain vulnerable to the pressures of overfishing and habitat loss as the long-lived species slowly rebuilds. With uncertain population dynamics, the harvest moratorium for this species remains in place and goliathgrouper are considered endangered in global waters by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
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.
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. 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. 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.
The Goliath, Epimetheus Tamara, is the largest grouper in the western hemisphere, and can reach 8 feet in length and more than 1,000 pounds. A 4.6-foot-long female caught at a spawning aggregation contained 57 million eggs.
For a few weeks each year, spawning aggregations of up to 100 goliathgrouper occur at specific times and locations. Small (under 4 feet, or five to six years old) goliathgrouper live around mangroves; larger adults prefer coral reefs.
These adaptable fish can live in brackish water and tolerate low oxygen levels. A goliathgrouper ’s age can be estimated using annual growth rings in its dorsal fin rays, much like those found within tree trunks.
Survival is threatened by overfishing and loss of the inshore mangrove habitat required by juveniles. Despite having teeth, goliathgrouper engulf and swallow prey whole.
The Goliath grouper reaches a length of 8 feet (240 cm) and the largest published weight is 1003 lbs. The base of the soft dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales and thick skin.
The juvenile Goliath grouper, which is less than 39 inches (100 cm), is tawny or yellowish-brown in color with irregular darker brown vertical bands. The larger adult fish is gray or greenish with pale blotches and smaller dark brown or blackish spots scattered over the upper part of its head, body and pectoral fins.
The goliathgrouper is capable of producing a loud booming noise, which may be used to defend territory or during courtship. The Goliath grouper feeds primarily on crustaceans, especially spiny lobsters, as well as turtles, fish and stingrays.
This species is an ambush hunter that feeds during the day, with increased activity during the low-light periods of dawn and dusk. This is accompanied by rapidly expansion of its jaws and flaring of the gill covers which create a vacuum that sucks the prey into its mouth.
The Goliath grouper occurs in the western Atlantic from Florida to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Populations began to decline in the 1960s when recreational SCUBA divers would swim up to the fearless fish and spear it at close range.
This consists of a “threat display” to intruders by opening its mouth wide and shaking its body or producing a loud booming sound (see below). The Goliath grouper will travel many miles during one or two months each year to mate in huge spawning aggregations at traditional breeding grounds.
As the male approaches the female, its entire forebode, from the pectoral fins forward, turns pale, contrasting sharply with its dark rest of the body. The eggs hatch into transparent larvae that quickly develop long spines and a large mouth.
After drifting with the current for 25 to 45 days, the one-inch larvae settle to the bottom in shallow-water mangrove habitats where they hide while completing metamorphosis into juveniles. Large areas of mangrove forests are vital for the larvae and juveniles until they reach 30 lbs.
Due to short dive times at depths of 100 feet or more, there have been few recorded observations of the courtship of the Goliath grouper. While diving in 80-foot deep waters off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, spear fisherman Arif Saber had a standoff with a seemingly fearless and ferocious goliathgrouper, which Grind TV estimated was 300- to 400-pounds.
Saber had just caught a lesser amber jack with his spearfish gun, he told Grind TV, when he noticed the large grouper eyeing him and closing the distance in between them. The video, shot by his wife using a GoPro 3, shows the hefty fish as he nips at the man's flipper, tearing it off, and then goes straight for his catch with its powerful jaw.
But, even if the diver wasn't familiar with that specific size of this type of fish, Goliath groupers have been known to roam western Atlantic waters near Florida.