As fishermen tell it, these marine blimps hover in wait of easy meals, parking themselves next to fishing boats and snatching someone else's hard-won catch off the line. They face strong opposition from environmentalists, divers and some scientists, who relish the opportunity to see these enormous, surprisingly curious fish just a few hundred yards from South Florida's condo towers.
“If you sit still, they'll come to you and see what's going on,” said Kevin Metz, owner of Underwater Explorers of Boynton Beach, whose business from August through October consists almost exclusively of taking divers to see Goliath groupers at a submerged wreck. For anglers, watching in dismay as Goliath groupers swallow their catch, the huge fish are as charming as that friend who always seems to show up around dinner time.
His eyeball was the size of a baseball, and its mouth was so big it could’ve eaten a small child.” Brian Sanders of Davie has taken famous South Floridians including former Miami Dolphins' linebacker Zach Thomas and former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fishing for Goliath.
Written comments to the wildlife commission in support of allowing them to be taken again describe similar experiences. Whether to allow them to be killed, the wildlife commission has received 439 written comments so far, the majority from fishermen who blame the resurgence of Goliath groupers for a decline in the number of other fish.
“They eat massive amounts of reef fish to maintain and grow to these huge weights. Known until 2001 by the politically incorrect name “Jewish,” the goliathgrouper had sustained a sharp decline due to overfishing for its meat, the loss of coastal habitat for young fish and the inherent vulnerabilities of a long-lived species that takes years to reach sexual maturity.
The species is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of wildlife populations. “Recent stock assessment indicates abundance in South Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990,” said Amanda Valley, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.
“While a limited harvest of smaller-sized fish in south Florida is unlikely to harm the population, the FCC also wants to take into consideration stakeholder perspectives. Sylvia Earle, one of the world's foremost marine biologists, who was named a Hero for the Planet by Time magazine, strongly supports keeping the ban, saying that living Goliath groupers are ecological treasures that support a growing tourism industry.
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 goliathgrouper do 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. Photograph by Raul Toulon, National Geographic Creative The Atlantic goliathgrouper (Epimetheus Tamara) isn’t the meanest or fastest fish on the reef.
Though the Atlantic goliathgrouper can grow up to 800 pounds (363 kilograms) and eight feet (2.4 meters) in length, it subsists almost entirely on smallish mud crabs. “From all available data, goliathgrouper do not eat sharks,” said Dr. Matthew Craig, a National Geographic grantee and marine biologist at the University of San Diego in California.
Christopher Koenig, a biologist from Florida State University, confirms that groupers preying on sharks is unlikely under normal conditions. “They are designed to hold the fish within the mouth cavity, not to cut it in pieces.
Craig said he has seen groupers in aquariums misjudge the size of prey and gulp it down anyway: “The result is that the tail end of the fish sticks out of their mouths until the other end is digested, and they can swallow it” Game fisherman prize the Goliath because of their size and the fish stories earned by hauling one in.
Watch video of Goliath groupers up close with photographer David Doublet, who shot the images for a story on this fish in the July issue of National Geographic magazine. This means when you roll up on pretty much any reef in the state of Florida these days you’ll find MASSIVE Goliath Grouper because these fish have been able to grow, unchecked, eating everything in sight.
After checking out their website it looks like they’re super legit, and put their guests on fish every time out. Being extremely large saltwater fish, Goliath Groupers are found in shallow tropical waters abundant with coral and artificial reefs.
The fish’s meat contains high levels of methyl mercury making it unfit for human consumption. Goliath Groupers are found in the eastern as well as western Atlantic Ocean.
In the western half, they exist in the waters of the Florida Keys, Bahamas, and the coast of Brazil. Here’s a table giving the scientific classification of the fish, followed by some intriguing facts about its physical characteristics, diet, and temperament.
Scientific ClassificationCommon Name: Atlantic GoliathGrouper Binomial Name: Epimetheus Tamara Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Performed Family: Serranidae Genus: Epimetheus IUCN Rating: Critically Endangered Goliath Groupers can grow as big as 8.2 feet in length, and half as wide.
these fish could either be dull green or gray, or dark yellow to brown. Goliath Groupers are known by several names including, Atlantic GoliathGrouper, Black Bass, One Grouper, Giant Sea bass, Guava, Hamlet, Jew fish, and Southern/Spotted Jew fish.
Juveniles are just 2.5 cm long and prefer settling into mangrove habitats. These fish were considered a delicacy prior to receiving a critically endangered status.
scientists believe that Goliath Groupers have a very long lifespan, and they may live for even a hundred years. This is because, these fish make a peculiar booming sound (something like that of a bass drum) which can not only be heard but felt as well.
These vocalizations are normally termed as barks; they are either used to communicate or to warn intruders trying to access their territories. Also, they don’t move a lot and are always glued to reefs, corals, and rocks in shallow waters, except during the spawning season.
This refers to organisms who are born female and undergo a sexual transformation at some point later in their lives. the GoliathGrouper was traditionally referred to as Jewish (as mentioned before), but the American Fisheries Society banned the use of this term (in 2001) as it sounded culturally insensitive.