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Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper. Picture courtesy NOAA

Epinephelus itajara

This large, solitary fish will safeguard its territory once threatened, through aggressive body language and a rumbling sound it provides with its swim bladder. Its large, thick, elongated body can prosper to over 8 feet long (and as much as 800 pounds), indigenous rounded snout and small eyes, to short, fan-like tail fin. Typically it is a mottled yellow-brown come grey through darker bard and also spots, right for blending in to your rocky coral and muddy inshore habitat. Although most groupers begin out as females and become males later in life, over there is still some debate regarding goliath groupers gift protogynous hermaphrodites.

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Order: PerciformesFamily: SerranidaeGenus: EpinephelusSpecies: itajara

Common Names

English language typical names incorporate goliath grouper, jewfish, blackbass, esonue grouper, large seabass, grouper, hamlet, southerly jewfish, and spotted jewfish. Other names room badejo (Portuguese), camapu (Portuguese), cernia gigante (Italian), cherna (Spanish), garoupa (Portuguese), gran morgoe (Sranan), guasa (Spanish), hata (Japanese), havabbor (Norwegian), havsabborre (Swedish), itajara zmienna (Polish), judefisk (Norwegian), mero guasa (Spanish), merou (French), orfoz (Turkish), raitameriahven (Finnish), rophós (Greek), sciarrano (Italian), tipa (Palicur), vartari (Icelandic), and zackenbarsch (German).

Importance to Humans

A 450 pound goliath grouper caught by buddy Jenks at the big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier, Florida (1976). Picture courtesy Kenneth Krysko

Of historic importance to commercial fisheries, the goliath grouper has also long to be prized by recreational and sport fishers. Traditionally, the types has been recorded primarily by hook and also line, traps, and trawls. Spear fishers uncover this fish basic to approach; thus in locations obtainable to divers your numbers have declined. The meat is of fantastic quality.

Danger to Humans

Very large goliath grouper have actually been it was observed to stalk divers and also even conduct not successful ambushes that the same. Huge individuals the this varieties should be treated with caution.


The large size, sluggish growth, low reproductive rate, and also spawning actions have made the goliath grouper especially susceptible come overfishing. The goliath grouper is completely protected native harvest and is known as a “Critically Endangered” varieties by the civilization Conservation Union (IUCN). Furthermore, the IUCN concludes that the types has been “observed, estimated, inferred or suspected” that a palliation of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations.

> inspect the standing of the goliath grouper at the IUCN website.

In U.S. Waters, take of this types has to be prohibited since 1990, and also the species has been defended in the Caribbean because 1993. Historical exploitation that goliath grouper yearly spawning aggregation web page greatly reduced the number of reproductive adults. As goliath grouper are sluggish growing and require several years to reach sex-related maturity, recovery for this species is intended to be slow.

> Download the NOAA technological Report ~ above the goliath grouper and related Nassau grouper.

Geographical Distribution

World distribution map because that the goliath grouper

The goliath grouper wake up in the western Atlantic ocean from Florida southern to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and also the Caribbean Sea. The is additionally found in the east Atlantic Ocean, from Senegal to Congo although rarely in the Canary Islands. The species is additionally present in the east Pacific s from the Gulf that California come Peru.


Occurring in shallow, inshore waters to depth of 150 feet (46 m), the goliath grouper prefers locations of rock, coral, and also mud bottoms. Strikingly patterned juveniles inhabit mangroves and also brackish estuaries, especially near oyster bars. The goliath grouper is significant as among the couple of groupers discovered in brackish waters. This fish is solitary by nature, v the adults occupying minimal home ranges. It is ar near areas of refuge such together caves, wrecks, and ledges, displaying an open up mouth and also quivering human body to intruders. Extr warning might be yielded in the type of the goliath grouper’s capacity to develop a patent audible rumbling sound created by the muscular contraction of the swim bladder. This sound travels good distances underwater and also is also used to find other goliath grouper.


Goliath grouper. Photo courtesy NOAA

Distinctive FeaturesGoliath grouper are the biggest members that the sea bass household in the Atlantic Ocean. The body is robust and elongate; that is widest suggest is much more than half its total length. The head is broad with tiny eyes. The dorsal fins are continuous with the light ray of the soft dorsal much longer than the spines the the very first dorsal fin. The membranes in between the dorsal fin facets are notched. Pectoral fins space rounded and noticeably larger than the pelvic fins. Bases of the soft dorsal and anal fins are covered v scales and also thick skin. The caudal fin is rounded.

ColorationThis fish is typically brownish yellow, gray, or olive with little dark clues on head, body, and fins. Large adults room somber-colored. Three or 4 irregular faint vertical bars are present of the political parties of people less 보다 3 feet (1m) in length. The rear fifty percent of the caudal penduncle of these tiny individuals is extended by another similar bar. The tawny fancy juveniles, although not as vibrant as some grouper species, are attractively patterned; exhibiting a series of dark, irregular, upright bands and blotches.

DentitionGoliath grouper have three to 5 rows of teeth in the reduced jaw. The presence of a variety of short weakly developed canine teeth is advantageous in differentiating this varieties from other North Atlantic groupers.


Size, Age, and GrowthThe goliath grouper is the biggest grouper in the west Atlantic. Farming to lengths that 8.2 feet (2.5 m), this grouper deserve to weigh as much as 800 pounds (363 kg). In Florida, the biggest hook and line captured specimen weighed 680 pounds (309 kg).

The oldest verifiable goliath grouper on document is 37 years. However, this specimen was sampled from a population of people depressed by fishing pressure and also it is projected the goliath grouper might live much longer, perhaps as much as 50 years. Males attain sexual maturity at four to 6 years of age and also lengths of 43-45 customs (110-115 cm), females at six to seven years the age and also 47-53 inches (120-135 cm). Expansion rates room slow, averaging about four inches (10 cm) per year until the age of six years. Growth decreases to around 1.2 customs (3 cm) every year at age 15, and also less 보다 .4 customs (1 cm) every year ~ 25 years.


Food HabitsGoliath grouper feed mainly on crustaceans (in particular spiny lobsters, shrimps and also crabs), fishes (including stingrays and also parrotfishes), octopus, and also young sea turtles. Prey is ambushed, caught with a rapid rush and also snap that the jaws. The sharp this are adapted for seizing prey and preventing escape although most prey is merely engulfed and also swallowed whole.

ReproductionMany groupers are protogynous hermaphrodites – a condition in which individuals an initial mature together females only later on to end up being males. And although goliath grouper space assumed to conform to this reproductive mode, a 1992 research of the age, growth, and reproduction the the varieties found no transitional individuals, the most direct evidence that sex reversal. However, the definition of this detect is of lessened value when one considers that transitional individuals are well-known to it is in rare amongst confirmed species of protogynous hermaphrodites, such as the red grouper (Epinephelus morio) and also gag (Mycteroperca microlepis). Additionally, exception to the ascendancy of protogyny in ~ a species may be common. One author offers 3 potential exceptions the may describe why some sexually mature male goliath groupers are smaller sized than part mature females – a scenario the at first would seem come be inconsistent for a protogynous hermaphrodite.

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1) an individual’s fail to recognize particular environmental cues or the absence of those environmental cues altogether might mean the sex change is never ever initiated.2) some females may shift to the male problem prematurely, i.e., castle never acquire sexual maturity together a female.3) The dimension at sex reversal might vary amongst populations.