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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Species Fact Profile: Atlantic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara)

Atlantic Goliath Grouper
Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822)

Range: Coastal Atlantic Ocean
Habitat: Shallow Coastal Waters, Mangroves (Juveniles)
Diet: Crustaceans, Fish, Mollusks
Social Grouping: Solitary, Small Schools
Reproduction: Breed July through September.  Gather at breeding sites to spawn.  Mature slowly - males mature at 4-6 years old, females at 6-7. 
Lifespan: 40 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Critically Endangered

  • Body length up to 2.5 meters, weight up to 360 kilograms
  • Dull green, grey, or brown-yellow scales with small dark spots on the head, body, and fins.  Smaller individuals tend to have vertical striping or blotching
  • Large, stocky body with broad head and small eyes, rounded fins
  • Only predators of adults are large sharks and humans; smaller individuals may be preyed upon by barracuda, moray eels, and smaller sharks
  • Believed to have the ability to change sex at some point during their lives - this has been documented in other grouper species, and is assumed to be the case with this one
  • Populations in the Pacific Ocean now listed as a separate species, the Pacific goliath group (Epinephelus quinquefasciatus)
  • Very susceptible to overfishing due to large size and slow reproductive rate, popular with fisherman due to taste and size.  Populations have been recovering ever since protection was offered in the 1990's
  • Historically was called "jewfish", though unknown exactly why - suggestions have included it being a corruption of "jawfish" or saying that it was kosher.  No longer used by American Fisheries Society after being deemed culturally offensive
  • Potentially aggressive, have been known to attack human SCUBA divers.  Territorial - if angered, will make a rumbling sound with its swim bladder.
  • Bred in captivity for the first time in 2015 by Colombian biologists 

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