Atlantic goliath grouper
|Atlantic goliath grouper (Jewfish)|
The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), commonly known as the jewfish, 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, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and practically all of the Brazilian coast, as well as in Azores, where they are known as mero. On some occasions, it is caught in New England off Maine and Massachusetts. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from the Congo to Senegal.
They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths of up to 3 m (10 ft) and can weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb). The world record for a hook and line-captured specimen is 309 kg (681 lb), caught off Fernandina Beach, Florida, in 1961. They are usually around 180 kg (400 lb) when mature. Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic goliath grouper were a highly sought-after quarry for fishermen. The grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature makes it a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning like clockwork to the same locations, making them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting.
Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline. The fish is entirely protected from harvest and is recognized as a critically endangered species by the IUCN. The US began protection in 1990, and the Caribbean in 1993. The species' population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish's slow growth rate, however, it will take some time for populations to return to their previous levels.
Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, which refer to organisms that are born male and at some point in their lifespan change sex to female. Most grouper follow this pattern, but it has not yet been verified for the goliath. In fact, males could be sexually mature at smaller sizes (~1150 mm) and younger ages (4–6 years) than females (~1225 mm and ~6–8 years).
The common name of the Atlantic goliath grouper is jewfish, but in 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using that terminology due to the potentially offensive nature of the name.
- Craig, M.T. (2011). "Epinephelus itajara". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 30 March 2014. Database entry includes a range map and a lengthy justification of why this species is critically endangered
- IGFA World Records
- "FLMNH Ichthyology Department: Goliath Grouper". Flmnh.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- Bullock et al. (1992) Age, Growth and Reproduction in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico U.S. Fishery Bulletin 90(2):243-249 retrieved April 8, 2008 from http://myfwc.com/Marine/grouper/goliath_grouper/reports.htm[dead link]
- The St. Petersburg Times, May 24, 2001, Mike Brassfield, Big fish to get a giant name
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