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”.
The giant grouper has a robust body which has a standard length equivalent to 2.4 to 3.4 times its depth. The dorsal profile of the head and the intraorbital area are convex, The properly has a rounded corner and a finely serrated margin.
The gill cover has a convex upper margin. There are 11 spines and 14-16 soft rays in the dorsal fin while the anal fin has 3 spines and 8 soft rays.
The adults are greyish-brown in color overlain with a mottled pattern and with darker fins. The giant grouper can grow to huge size with the maximum recorded standard length being 270 centimeters (110 in), although they are more common around 180 centimeters (71 in).
And a maximum published weight of 400 kilograms (880 lb). The giant grouper is a species of shallow water and can be found at depths of 1 to 100 meters (3.3 to 328.1 ft).
Large specimens have been caught from shore and in harbors. They are found in caves and in wrecks while the secretive juveniles occur in reefs and are infrequently observed.
The adults are mainly solitary and hold territories on the outer reef and in lagoons. They have also been caught in turbid water over silt or mud sea beds by prawn fishermen.
The giant grouper is an opportunistic ambush predator which feeds on a variety of fishes, as well as small sharks, juvenile sea turtles, crustaceans and mollusks which are all swallowed whole. Fish which inhabit coral reefs and rocky areas favor spiny lobsters as prey and 177 centimeters (70 in) specimen taken of Maui in Hawaii had a stomach contents of two spiny lobsters and a number of crabs.
Fish living in estuaries environments in South Africa were found to be feeding almost exclusively on the crab Scylla errata. They are, however, curious and frequently approach divers closely.
They are not generally considered dangerous to humans but divers are advised to treat large specimens with caution and not to hand feed them. They are aggregate broadcast spawners, usually with several females per male.
Studies in captive populations suggest that the dominant male and female begin the spawning event as nearly the only spawners for the first day or two, but other members of the aggregation fertilize more eggs as the event progresses, with even the most recently turned males fathering offspring. Giant groupers are diabetic protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that although some males develop from reproductively functional females other males start to produce sperm without ever having gone through a phase as a reproductive female.
The giant grouper is a highly valued food fish and is taken by both commercial and recreational fisheries. As well as the consumption of its flesh its skin, gall bladder and stomach are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It is valued in Hong Kong as a live fish for the live reef food fish trade, especially smaller specimens. This species is cultured in agriculture and this practice is widespread but there is a restricted supply of juveniles, although hatcheries in Taiwan have produced captive bred juveniles, exporting some for to be grown on in other parts of South-East Asia.
Many of the fish produced in aquaculture are hybrids between this species and E. fuscoguttatus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“A study into parental assignment of the communal spawning protogynous hermaphrodite, giant grouper (Epimetheus lanceolatus)”. ^ Peter Palma; Akihito Nakamura; Garden XYZ Libunaoa; et al. (2019).
“Reproductive development of the threatened giant grouper Epimetheus lanceolatus “. ^ Scholar, W. N.; Cricket, R. & van der Loan, R.
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.
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.
Scientists only recently divided the species into two, based on their slightly different genetic makeup. 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.