Atlantic goliath grouper

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Atlantic goliath grouper
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Serranidae
Subfamily: Epinephelinae
Genus: Epinephelus
E. itajara
Binomial name
Epinephelus itajara
(Lichtenstein, 1822)
  • Promicrops itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822)
  • Serranus itajara Lichtenstein, 1822
  • Serranus mentzelii Valenciennes, 1828
  • Serranus galeus J.P. Müller & Troschel, 1848
  • Serranus guasa Poey, 1860
  • Promicrops esonue Ehrenbaum, 1915
  • Promicrops ditobo Roux & Collignon, 1954

The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), also known as the jewfish,[3] 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.

Atlantic goliath grouper

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.[4] 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. 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.[5]

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.[1] It is entirely protected from harvest. 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.[6]

Goliath groupers eat crustaceans, other fish, octopuses, young sea turtles, sharks, and barracudas. They are known to attack divers, and have even been seen attacking large lemon sharks.[7]


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.[8] 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.[9]


In May 2015, the Atlantic goliath grouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time.[10][11][12] Since Epinephelus itajara are Vulnerable it is important that conservation efforts for the E. itajara are focused on their habitat. Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. itajara. In tidal pools juvenile E.itajara are able to utilize rocky crevices for shelter. Besides shelter, tidal pools provide E. itajara with plenty of prey such as lobster and porcelain crab.[13]


As with other fish, the Atlantic goliath grouper is the host of several species of parasites, including the diplectanid monogenean Pseudorhabdosynochus americanus on its gills.[14]


The Atlantic goliath grouper has historically been referred to as the "jewfish". The name's origin is unclear. It may have referred to the fish's status as inferior leading it to be declared only suitable for Jews,[15] or the flesh having a "clean" taste comparable to kosher food; it has also been suggested that this name is simply a corruption of jawfish or the Italian word for "bottom fish", giupesce.[16][15] In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because of complaints that it was culturally insensitive.[16][15]


  1. ^ a b Bertoncini, A.A.; Aguilar-Perera, A.; Barreiros, J.; et al. (2018). "Epinephelus itajara (errata version published in 2019)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T195409A145206345. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T195409A145206345.en.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2019). "Epinephelus itajara" in FishBase. April 2019 version.
  3. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "Renaming the jewfish". Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  4. ^ "IGFA World Record - All Tackle Records - Grouper, goliath". IGFA Online. International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  5. ^ Holland, Jennifer S. (2014). "Big Fish". National Geographic.
  6. ^ Fisheries, NOAA (2020-02-24). "Goliath Grouper | NOAA Fisheries". NOAA. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  7. ^ Herraria, Carla. "Think Sharks Are Scary? This Goliath Grouper Attack Is Terrifying". Huffpost. Verizon Media. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  8. ^ "FLMNH Ichthyology Department: Goliath Grouper". Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Tiempo, Casa Editorial El (2015-06-22). "Hito de la ciencia nacional: reproducen en cautiverio al mero guasa - Otras ciudades - El Tiempo".
  11. ^ Tiempo, Casa Editorial El (2015-06-22). "Colombianos logran salvar al mero guasa de la extinción - Ciencia - El Tiempo".
  12. ^ "FIS - Noticias - Logran reproducir mero guasa en cautiverio".
  13. ^ Lobato, Cleonice Maria Cardoso; Soares, Bruno Eleres; Begot, Tiago Octavio Ruffeil; Montag, Luciano Fogaça de Assis (January 2016). "Tidal pools as habitat for juveniles of the goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein 1822) in the Amazonian coastal zone, Brazil". Natureza & Conservação. 14 (1): 20–23. doi:10.1016/j.ncon.2015.12.001.
  14. ^ 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 4536336. PMID 26272242. open access
  15. ^ a b c "How the Jewfish Got Its Name". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  16. ^ a b Brassfield, Mike (May 24, 2001). "Big fish get a giant name". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved August 21, 2014.

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