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Home > Biological Info > Goliath Grouper

Biological Info: Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

Scientific Name:
Epinephelus itajara
Common Names:
Jewfish, Southern jewfish, Spotted jewfish, Blackbass, Esonue grouper, Giant seabass
Range & Habitat:

The goliath grouper inhabits tropical and subtropical waters and can be found in the eastern Pacific, western Atlantic, and eastern Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico in shallow reefs at depths from 15 feet to 150 feet. The grouper prefers structure such as oyster bars, mangroves, rock or coral and is one of the few groupers found in brackish water.

Identification & Biology:

Adults have small spots on the fins, body and head and are typically olive, gray or brownish yellow in color.

Goliath groupers are opportunistic ambush predators that feed on a variety of food items. This grouper primarily feeds on crustaceans (crabs, shrimp and spiny lobster). Other prey items include octopus, juvenile sea turtles, gastropods, and a variety of fish such as hardhead catfish, stingray and parrotfish.

The large fish can live more than 35 years and is a slow grower. On average the fish grow approximately 4 inches per year until age six, then growth declines sharply to 1.2 inches per year until age 15 and down to 0.4 inches per year after age 25. The fish take several years to reach sexual maturity due to the slow growth rate. Males are considered sexually mature when they have reached a total length of 45.5 inches and are over seven years of age. Females are considered sexually mature when they reach a total length of 48.2 inches and are over six years of age.

Spawning season varies from June to October depending on location. In the Gulf of Mexico spawning occurs during a full moon in July through September. During spawning, goliath groupers form aggregations of tens to hundreds of individuals at specific spawning sites. Research has shown slow-growing, long-lived, fish which aggregate in specific spawning sites are vulnerable to overfishing.

The goliath grouper is the second largest member of the grouper family and one of the largest reef fish on earth. An adult goliath grouper can weigh as much as 800 pounds and reach 8.2 feet in length.
Food Value:
Prior to 1990, the goliath grouper was recreationally and commercially fished and had an excellent food value. However, overexploitation and environmental factors caused a decline in the species. The goliath grouper is listed as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected from harvest and possession. .

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