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Goliath Grouper Spawning Aggregation Jupiter

author
David Lawrence
• Saturday, 05 December, 2020
• 7 min read

Not so in the waters of Palm Beach County, where at any time of the year it is quite common to see at least one or two of these big animals lurking on a wreck or within an undercut on a ledge. But spawning season is something different, as the area’s resident population of Goliath are joined by fish from as far as 350 miles / 560 kilometers away.

grouper goliath aggregation spawning months between during alamy jewfish august cave october beach
(Source: www.alamy.com)

Contents

These gatherings are the start of a two-month romance that currently takes place at six key sites. Five of those sites lay within easy reach of dive charters between Jupiter and Boca Raton.

Some spawning fish that end up in Palm Beach waters begin their journey from considerable distances (Cumberland Island, Georgia the furthest documented), and start moving as early as mid July. By August, the bulk of the migrating fish have completed their journey, swelling the ranks on the aggregation site from a handful of behemoths to aquatic herds of 50 or more.

In the summers of 2013 and 2014, the Castor Wreck off Boynton Beach (the most southern spawning site known off Florida’s east coast) received the lion’s share with 100 plus fish. The shift in preferred locations may have been also influenced by a string of cold-water upwelling that plagued the first half of the 2013 season, pushing a number of fish farther south than normal.

Unlike one of their closer kin, the Nassau grouper (Epimetheus stratus), which typically spawn in mass under a full moon in winter, the actual mating ritual for Goliath is still somewhat of a mystery. This creates considerable frustration for both fishery biologists and underwater photographers, as no one has yet been able to document the actual spawning event.

These methods have helped determine that that spawning takes place shortly after sunset during a six to seven night period centered on the new moon cycles of August and September. What divers typically see during daylight hours on any given spawning aggregation site are a collection of colossal-size groupers either formed up in a single group, or a collection of subgroups hanging close to one another, with the fish milling about idly as if saying, “O.K., we’re all here, now what?” When divers encounter these groups of Goliath, there is little to be afraid of, as the fish are no more territorial during spawning season than they are any other time of the year.

goliath spawning grouper season jupiter waters aggregation florida
(Source: divepbc.com)

Divers with a group of Goliath grouper during spawning season in front the Castor wreck off of Boynton Beach, Florida. When threatened, they sound off with a short series of loud booms accompanied by a brief body shake that makes the fish look like its having a mild seizure.

But this posturing is almost all bark and no bite, as they will typically retreat to a safer distance or disappear in a deep hole in the reef or wreck the moment they feel their bluff has been called. Seeing an entire spawning aggregation when underwater visibly is good (60-100 feet / 18-30 meters), is a spectacle that sometimes defies words.

Jupiter Dive Center is proud to offer an exclusive GoliathGrouper Specialty course where you will learn all about these amazing behemoths of the ocean. The offshore reefs of Jupiter, Florida hosts a year-round population of Goliath groupers.

During peak season, you can expect to see sixty or more of these gentle giants congregated along the Jupiter Wreck Trek. This course starts in the classroom, where students will learn about goliathgrouper identification, habitat, range, diet, and role in the marine ecosystem.

Divers who complete both the classroom and dives will receive a GoliathGrouper Specialty certification. Once you complete this course, you may be interested in learning more about other marine animals such as sea turtles or sharks.

grouper spawning aggregation goliath alamy months between during
(Source: www.alamy.com)

During peak season, you can expect to see sixty or more of these gentle giants congregated along the Jupiter Wreck Trek. This course starts in the classroom, where students will learn about goliathgrouper identification, habitat, range, diet, and role in the marine ecosystem.

Following the presentation the students will participate in two guided dives where divers will focus on putting their newfound knowledge to use. Divers who complete both the classroom and dives will receive a GoliathGrouper Awareness certification.

Their diet exists mostly ofslow-moving, bottom associated species like crabs, and other invertebrates and fish. Every year, spawning aggregations of up to 100-150 Goliath groupers occur at specific time sand locations.

Some individuals travel over 100 miles to spawn, and we are lucky to have several of these grouper aggregation locations right here in our backyard. Every year between the endow August and October, we see the Goliath groupers coming together around several of our wreck sites here in Jupiter to spawn.

Jupiter Dive Center is proud to offer an exclusive GoliathGrouper Specialty course where you will learn all about these amazing behemoths of the ocean. The offshore reefs of Jupiter, Florida hosts a year-round population of Goliath groupers.

grouper spawning season goliath jul
(Source: divepbc.com)

During peak season, you can expect to see sixty or more of these gentle giants congregated along the Jupiter Wreck Trek. What to Expect This course starts in the classroom, where students will learn about goliathgrouper identification, habitat, range, diet, and role in the marine ecosystem.

Following the presentation, the students will participate in two guided dives where divers will focus on putting their newfound knowledge to use. Your Next Adventure Once you complete this course, you may be interested in learning more about other marine animals such as sea turtles or sharks.

In the eastern Atlantic, it occurs along West Africa from Senegal to Cabinet, Angola (for map and countries see IUCN Red List Assessment). Species Summary : The goliathgrouper is widely distributed and inhabits hard reef structure and mangrove areas.

Both juveniles and adults occupy home range areas, within which they exhibit some degree of territoriality, displaying to intruders with an open mouth, a quivering body and a booming sound generated by muscular contractions of the swim bladder. The species reproduces in small (fewer than about 150 adults) aggregations at the same locations, including shipwrecks, each year, generally from August to mid-October (with some temporal variation) in relatively shallow (10-50 m) waters.

Adults can migrate up to 500 km from areas of residence to spawning sites, as determined from tagging studies. Unlike many other groupers, this species appears to be gonochoristic (separate sexes), although its sexual pattern has yet to be studied in detail.

grouper goliath itajara diver scuba epinephelus during alamy spawning aggregation jupiter
(Source: www.alamy.com)

During the spawning aggregations, which can be dramatic with large numbers of large fish gathering in a small area, and are attractive to divers who are willing to pay to visit them, males and females interact and are often readily filmed and photographed. Fisheries : Abundance is substantially reduced from former levels throughout the geographic range of the species, according to available information.

In Florida, overfishing by commercial and recreational fishermen occurred rapidly because the characteristics of these fish–their longevity, aggregating behavior and sedentary nature, combined with technological advances in positioning gear over the last 30 years–made them particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure. In South Brazil, historically present aggregations, once with least 60 individuals, have dwindled to only a dozen fish, according to local knowledge.

Management/Conservation: A fishing moratorium has been in place in U.S. waters for the past 27 years, and the population has been mostly increasing as a result, although it is not yet fully recovered. In Brazil, a fishing ban has been in place since 2002; however, due to lack of enforcement in most areas there is no sign of recovery, while removal and/or degradation of mangroves across the species range is a major threat to juvenile survival.

In the U.S. other threats include reduced genetic diversity, health stresses caused by high mercury concentrations and localized recruitment failures caused by extreme red tide and cold water events in juvenile habitat. Nonetheless, there are signs of growth in both juvenile and adult populations, following protection, with one aggregation off the southeast Florida coast that existed at least since the 1960s and disappeared in the 1980s, reappearing in 2005 with about 65 individuals.

The problem of overfishing is intensified by the pressure exerted on juveniles, known as mates ”, which fishers do not recognize as having the same protected status as adults. Due to increases in goliathgrouper abundance, there is pressure in the U.S. from some commercial and recreational fishers to reopen its fishery.

grouper goliath jewfish fl species protected spawning aggregation jupiter during atlantic 800lbs largest epinephelus endangered itajara 1990 since 8ft reaching
(Source: www.gettyimages.ca)

Regarding use and protection of this species, there is an interesting discussion regarding the human relationship with this (and similar charismatic megafauna), especially threatened species that were once heavily exploited regarding whether they should be exploited, and if so to what extent; interesting discussions on this issue are available in the papers cited by Mazzini et al. (2019); Koenig et al. (2019) and Chiseler et al. (2016) (see below). Also, recent campaigns to raise awareness about the endangered condition and protected status of the species are increasing (e.g. www.merosdobrasil.org).

Mercury and histopathology of the vulnerable goliathgrouper, Epimetheus Tamara, in U.S. waters: A multi-tissue approach. Age, growth, and mortality of the Atlantic goliathgrouper Epimetheus Tamara in French Guiana.

Evidence for spawning aggregations of the endangered Atlantic goliathgrouper Epimetheus Tamara in southern Brazil. Regional age structure, reproductive biology and trophic patterns of adult GoliathGrouper in Florida.

Koenig, C.C., Buena, L.S., Coleman, F.C., Cu sick, J.A., Ellis, R.D., Klingon, K., Location, J.V., Malinowski, C., Marie, D.J. Died, lunar, and seasonal spawning patterns of the Atlantic goliathgrouper, Epimetheus Tamara, off Florida, United States.

From sea monsters to charismatic megafauna: Changes in perception and use of large marine animals. Recreational diver willingness to pay for goliathgrouper encounters during the months of their spawning aggregation off eastern Florida, USA.

spawning grouper goliath aggregation castor
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Assessing Fishing Experts’ Knowledge to Improve Conservation Strategies for an Endangered Grouper in the Southwestern Atlantic.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In

01: Atlantic Black Grouper
02: Atlantic Goliath Grouper
03: Atlantic Goliath Grouper Diet
04: Atlantic Goliath Grouper Predators
05: Atlantic Goliath Grouper Wikipedia
06: Atlantic Grouper Season 2021
07: Smallest Grouper For Aquarium
08: Small Grouper For Aquarium
09: Smoked Grouper Dip
10: Smoked Grouper Dip Recipe
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