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.
A 16-year-old girl who went deep-sea fishing recently for only her second time, reeled up an estimated 583-pound goliathgrouper, which dwarfs the women’s world record for the species. “I was, like, in shock pretty much,” Reagan Werner told the Trinities Pioneer Press on Saturday.
Werner, who is from Farmington, Minn., was fishing May 31 near Marco Island off Florida with her brother, mother, and stepfather. “These things have amazing power,” Paul Hartman, Werner’s stepfather, told the Pioneer Press.
According to the International Game Fish Assn., the heaviest goliathgrouper caught by a woman weighed 366 pounds. That fish, caught by Betsy Walker off Panama in 1965, is the women’s world record for 80-pound-test line.
The Atlantic goliathgrouper or Tamara (Epimetheus Tamara), also known as the Jewish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 164 ft). 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. Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Tamara in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
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.
Reefs are considered healthier if you see one of us swimming around because we help maintain balance in the ecosystem. I use my large mouth to suck in whole fish or invertebrates, then swallow them right away.
Scientists estimate that historical overfishing decreased our numbers by about 80%, and it’s been a long road to recovery. After they’re fertilized, the eggs drift around in the currents until they finally hatch.
Grouper is a family of fish that can reach sizes of up to 500 pounds. Goliath and other larger grouper, however, have tougher meat that is best used in chowders and stews.
While Goliath grouper can only be caught and released in the United States, there are many Asian countries that allow free-for-all fishing of these whoppers. Remove the scales of the fish on both sides by sliding the knife from the head, below the gills all the way down to the tail.
I learned about it from a buddy diver who excitedly told me to go diving with him upon a prompt from a classmate in high school who happened to be the mayor of that town. Probably, I am lucky that the Goliath grouper (Epimetheus quinquefasciatus) I encountered several minutes when I plunged into the water was still a juvenile.
I brought with me my automatic Nikon camera encased in a plastic casing to make it water-resistant as taking pictures is a pleasure for me each time I travel. I grabbed the camera hanging by a tough nylon string around my wrist, and took a video of the Goliath grouper following my buddy.
Despite the huge size of the Goliath grouper, they seem to be docile fishes although there are reports that they do attack humans. I saw one video that says so but analyzing the situation, I thought the reason was mainly to feed, not really to attack.
The moving fins attracted the grouper thinking probably that it was its prey and snapped on it. When the juveniles are older, they migrate to the coral reefs and stay there for more than 40 years.
The nearshore environment is a fragile one that should be protected or conserved considering the highly complex life that intertwine in mangrove ecosystems. About The Author Regional, Patrick Dr. Patrick A. Regional mentored graduate and undergraduate students for more than two decades and engaged in various university and externally-funded national and international research projects as a consultant.
Related to his blogging and book writing venture, he taught himself HTML, CSS, SEO, LyX/LaTeX, GIMP, and Inkscape to edit SVG, JPEG, and PNG files and WordPress. systems analysis using Stella, ENSIM, and Sesame; CGIS mapping, SCUBA diving for work and pleasure.
He likes running 2-3 miles, 3-4 times a week thus finished a 21K in 2019, and recently learned to cook at home due to COVID-19.