The Goliath Grouper, Epinephelus itajara, is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. As its name suggests, this large, stocky grouper is the second largest member of the grouper family. It is found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The Goliath Grouper is fished both commercially and for sport, but its slow growth and reproductive rates, and its group spawning behaviour, make it particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Since the 1970s, catch rates and average sizes have declined sharply, with the loss of critical mangrove habitat also affecting the recruitment of juveniles into the population.
A number of regulations are now in place to prohibit the harvesting of Goliath Groupers. The species is showing promising signs of recovery in some areas, but continued surveys, education programmes and the species’ inclusion in marine protected areas have been recommended, and many more years of protection will be needed if its populations are to properly recover.