Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Goliath Grouper

Life of Sea | Goliath Grouper | Goliath Grouper or Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), commonly known as the Jewfish is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family mainly found in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs. Historically, goliath grouper found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, both coasts of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the coasts of Brazil and the Caribbean. The goliath grouper is found in the western Atlantic from southern Florida to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It is also found in the eastern Atlantic from Senegal to Congo, although rare in the Canary Islands. The species is also present in the eastern Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California to Peru. Young Goliath Grouper can live in brackish estuaries, canals, and mangrove swamps, unusual behavior among grouper. 

Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Chordata
Class:     Actinopterygii
Order:     Perciformes
Family:     Serranidae
Genus:     Epinephelus
Species:     E. itajara

They can reach extremely large sizes. The body is elongated and robust; its widest point is greater than the half of the total length. The head is broad with small eyes. The dorsal fins are continuous with the rays of the soft dorsal longer than the spines of the first dorsal fin. This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray or olive with small dark spots on the head, body and fins. Large adults are gloomy color. Three or four irregular weak vertical bars are present on the sides of individuals younger than 3 feet (1 m) in length. The rear half of the caudal penduncle of these small individuals under similar bar. The tawny colored youth, although not as colorful as some grouper species are attractive pattern, show a series of dark, irregular, vertical stripes and spots. 

Goliath Grouper three to five rows of teeth in the lower jaw. The presence of a number of short poorly developed canines useful in distinguishing this species from other North Atlantic groupers. Goliath Grouper eat crustaceans, other fish, octopuses and young sea turtles. Prey is ambushed, captured with a fast rush and snap of the jaws. The sharp teeth are adapted for grasping prey and preventing escape, although most prey is simply overwhelmed and swallowed. Goliath Grouper are preyed upon by large fish such as barracuda, moray eels and large sharks. They are relatively long lived, with individuals of at least 37 years old found in exploited populations. It is possible that older fish in unfished populations. This species is very sensitive to cold temperatures and red tide. 

Of historical interest for the commercial fishery, the Goliath Grouper also long been prized by recreational fishermen. Traditionally, the species is caught primarily by hook and line, traps, and trawls. Spear fishers find this fish easy to approach, so in places accessible to divers have declined. The meat is of excellent quality. Goliath Grouper are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. This is partly due to their slow growth, sustainability and large size at sexual maturity. Moreover, because them together to spawn, they are an easy target. This applies to all types of large numbers otherwise the distribution of fish are concentrated in predictable areas and times. Fishing on spawning increased catch per effort in terms of population collapse, the removal of reproductive individuals that usually the biggest fish in the population. 

Juvenile Goliath Grouper to raising mangrove habitat throughout their range. This habitat in Florida has declined since the early 1900s due to channelization of freshwater flow diverting the Everglades, mosquitoes counter, and the development of agricultural, industrial and residential purposes. Most of the existing mangrove habitat throughout the United States occurs along the west coast of Florida. Very few mangrove habitat remains on the southeast coast. Because mangroves serve as important juvenile habitat for these fish, their loss can affect population recovery even if reproductive adult fish are high.

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