GALLERIES

WALT STEARNS

Come join the biggest party with the largest fish of the reef. — Walt Stearns

CHRISTIAN VIZL

How incredible is it that hundreds of Goliath Groupers gather every year in the same places? I find this very intriguing, and it makes me admire and respect even more all life that surrounds me. When Sam Hodge told me about this gathering I almost could not believe him! Really that many? And each one so big? And so accessible for divers? Going to see them with my own eyes became inevitable. So I went there with Sam, other SFUPS members and my camera. Getting to know the people from SFUPS was by itself a great experience, but then to actually be in the presence of such magnificent animals by far exceeded my expectations. The photo opportunities are incredible, since they hover and tend to be very calm, allowing us to get very close to them. Rarely as an underwater photographer will you get such perfect conditions. The sea was calm, the water temp very nice, great visibility and hundreds of amazing animals!

This experience left me with a deep love and concern about the Groupers. They are so much more than just a nice fillet on a spicy dish. I hope that other people will realize this, and care enough to protect them. I often think about them, about their importance to the natural balance of this planet, and how my own life is linked to theirs. I know I would not like to live in a planet where they no longer exist, because if they are gone, most of the other life would be gone as well. Extinct by the hand of humans, whose biggest ability today seems to be the relentless destruction of life. Lets go visit them with awe and respect! Lets bring images to show to the rest of the world how amazing they are! Lets talk about conservation… — Christian Vizl

SAM HODGE

In my years of diving and snorkeling the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean it’s always been a treat to be in the presence of a Goliath Grouper. I saw my first Goliath in the late 80’s at the entrance to an underwater cave at an unnamed shallow reef in Belize. It’s size was the first thing that impressed me, and later it’s carefree demeanor was what really became a memorable experience. Sometime later reports that the Goliath was no longer there left a question in my mind until 2010 when I became more versed in the plight of the Goliath Grouper. Diving with Goliath’s when they aggregate off the coast of Palm Beach County is an experience not known to occur anywhere else in the world. Big friendly fish sometimes numbering up to a hundred just hovering in the current surrounded by tens of thousands of baitfish, it’s hard to think of a more scenic photographic opportunity. It’s a South Florida gem to be shared with conservation photographers the world over. Come to South Florida and share in the experience for yourself! — Sam Hodge

ALAN C. EGAN

I departed Manchester UK in 1984 to live in Miami Florida, this is where my love affair with the ocean and diving began. With over 6,000 dives in the USA, Central & South America, Caribbean and Bahamas, I have been fortunate to see many spectacular events but not many things can compare to seeing in excess of one hundred and forty Goliath Groupers all in one place. Many of them reaching three hundred pounds it creates a spectacle not seen by many people in the world. Truly amazing, and even after many hundred dives with them it still leaves one breathless and in awe. – Alan C. Egan

CHRIS GUG

When I started diving the South Florida reefs back is 1995, seeing a Goliath grouper was an extremely rare treat, and usually a chance encounter. Now, thanks to the tireless work of conservationists, dive operations, and scientists alike, they have made a wonderful comeback. Even better, under their protected status, we’ve had time to research the where’s, when’s and how’s of their biology and behavior, and getting close to them in their natural environment has opened up a wealth of opportunities for divers, photographers, and ocean lovers of all types.

As a professional underwater wildlife photographer, I’ve watched my own opportunities grow by leaps and bounds, as a healthy population now calls our local reefs and wrecks home, and their annual spawning aggregation is nothing short of one of the most miraculous wildlife events on Earth. To those who worked so hard to afford them protected status, you have my heartfelt thanks, and to those divers who haven’t met one of our 600-lb friends in their natural environment in the wild ……what are you waiting for?!? – Chris Gug

WAYNE MACWILLIAMS

To me, I feel lucky and privileged that these wonderful creatures reside a mere 6 miles from my front door. When I dive with the Goliaths, I feel a sense of honor that any majestic, powerful animal can at times allow me to get face to face without fear, from either of us! When a fish that is 3 times my size approaches my dome port to observe its reflection, how can you not feel a sense of awe. When I was growing up MANY years ago, Goliaths were considered a nuisance fish-eating any and everything they could get their lips around, or so we thought. So, spearing one was not out of the question, but even back then (over 30 years ago) sightings were not very common on the reefs. We (I) were simply ignorant to the facts about their diet, range, metabolism etc.. Now that I am less ignorant to the facts, I feel an obligation in a sense, to help in any way I can to “spread the word”.

Economically speaking the Goliaths are a tremendous financial draw from and to divers, underwater photographers, dive shops, dive vessels, directly. Hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants and supporting members indirectly. Ecologically speaking the Goliaths were here long before us and hopefully long after us because after all, it is THEIR home and we are just guests. To that, they have a purpose or role to play in helping keep a marine balance. I think anyone that gets the opportunity to dive with the Goliaths-STOP THINK and CONSIDER what a wonderful moment you are having. If you approach in a non aggressive manner, you may be pleasantly surprised that the Goliaths personality (yes personality) of curiosity will take over and will give you a dive to remember ! – Wayne MacWilliams

AMANDA COTTON

Diving with the Goliath Groupers in South Florida during the spawning aggregation is one of the most exceptional experiences I’ve had underwater. Encountering just one of these massive fish is impressive, but to find yourself in the water with up to a hundred of these giants is awe-inspiring. There are incredibly beautiful and charismatic fish. Given the opportunity to dive with them should not be missed. They are perfect models for an underwater photographer and this upcoming photo contest is an exciting chance to share their beauty and story with the masses. – Amanda Cotton