Atlantic goliath grouper
|Atlantic goliath grouper|
The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara) 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. 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 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 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, some time will be needed for populations to return to their previous levels.
Goliath grouper eat crustaceans, other fish, octopodes, young sea turtles, sharks, and barracudas. They are known to attack divers, and have even been seen attacking large lemon sharks.
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. Most grouper follow this pattern, but this has not yet been verified for the goliath. Males can be sexually mature at about 115 centimetres (45 in), and ages 4–6 years. Females mature around 125 centimetres (49 in), and about 6–8 years.
The Atlantic goliath grouper has been referred to as the jewfish. The name's origin is unclear, and may have referred to the flesh having a "clean" taste comparable to kosher food, been an insulting suggestion that the fish provided low quality meat and was "only fit for Jews", or that the word was simply a corruption of jawfish. In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because over concerns that it was culturally insensitive.
- 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 Record - All Tackle Records - Grouper, goliath". IGFA Online. International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
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- "FLMNH Ichthyology Department: Goliath Grouper". Flmnh.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- Bullock et al. (1992). Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Jewfish Epinephelus itajara in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Fishery Bulletin 90 (2):243-249. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
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- Kritsky, Delane C.; Bakenhaster, Micah D.; Adams, Douglas H. (2015). "Pseudorhabdosynochus species (Monogenoidea, Diplectanidae) parasitizing groupers (Serranidae, Epinephelinae, Epinephelini) in the western Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters, with descriptions of 13 new species". Parasite. 22: 24. doi:10.1051/parasite/2015024. ISSN 1776-1042. PMC . PMID 26272242.
- Brassfield, Mike (May 24, 2001). "Big fish get a giant name". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
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