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. On August 26th, Joshua Anyzeski caught the prohibited species, removing it from the water to take a picture.
The picture circulated on social media, which tipped off officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 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. A number of authors treat the name Promiscuous Tamara as valid taxonomy for the goliathgrouper.
The Goliath groupers have begun their yearly aggregation on our wrecks and reefs. We counted half a dozen of them on our newest wreck, the M/V Ana Cecilia.
Reserve your spot to dive with the groupers early as our trips are filling fast. It’s friendly demeanor and curiosity gets you within arms reach of it many times.
Now multiply this encounter by sixty plus and you are experiencing the best goliathgrouper diving anywhere in the world. Palm Beach, Florida is hands down the best place to be if you want to see these leviathans in all their splendor.
The wrecks in Palm Beach are the perfect hangout for these behemoth fish. Today’s morning trip included a stop at this great series of wrecks in search of the Goliath groupers.
Easily outweighing and almost out sizing the divers, these large sea bass (the largest of their kind in the world) are actually quite timid. Chase them and you’ll be doing nothing more than getting tail shots of these fish and running low on your air supply quickly.
Sitting back and letting their curiosity get the better of them is the best recipe for those closeup shots. Sea turtles, rays, and countless fish live around these wrecks.
With today’s ideal conditions and 3-4 dozen Goliath groupers to keep us in a constant state of awe, it is easy to understand why a few of us decided to do a second dive on the same wreck while the other divers were at a nearby reef. If the photos from today’s dive don’t convince you, then make sure to check out the recent article written in the National Geographic Magazine about the Goliath groupers.
The Goliath groupers normally stick around, with their numbers increasing throughout the months, until October. Don’t miss the opportunity to see these massive fish in all their splendor.
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Spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. CLOSED TO HARVEST OR POSSESSION IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC EEA (FEDERAL WATERS) SINCE 1990.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper. Note: Goliath grouper and Nassau grouper must be released by cutting the line and NOT removed from the water.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper. At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage.
Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet. Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing.
At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.