GOLIATH STORY

Text and Photography by Walt Stearns.

THE AGGREGATION

As the summer reaches its zenith, so begins a spectacle that divers and underwater photographers will not find anywhere else on the planet but Florida – 40 to 90 mammoth groupers massed together at a single location. The nature for these annual concentrated gatherings is a reproductive one lasting nearly two months in length. READ MORE . . . . .

GOLIATH CONSERVATION STORY

Twenty-five years ago, any type of encounter with these reef giants off Florida’s East Coast was a considerable rarity. Across the State on the West Coast, the situation was not all that much different.

The number of fish I had seen in my youth gathered on some of the distant wrecks far off shore in the southern Gulf of Mexico was identical to what I am seeing today. But, by 1985, those encounters had gone away, beaten back by aggressive fishing practices to become stories of something that once was, and likely never to be again. READ MORE . . . . .

GOLIATH HABITAT

During spawning, eggs are released into the open water column. Those that are fertilized will drift for a short period of time before they hatch, emerging first as free swimming pelagic larvae supported by a yolk-sac until they grow large enough to feed themselves. By this time the tiny fry are still smaller than a grain of rice, but now large enough to be seen by other – although small predators. From here, their existence is at its most perilous until they are delivered by the currents back to a coastline offering river mouth and lagoon type estuaries where they can find shelter among the mangrove’s tangled roots. READ MORE . . . . .

THE SCIENCE OF BEING MISUNDERSTOOD

The name goliath is quite fitting to the general description of the fish – large robust body the size of a barrel, with an equally stout head, fins and tail. But while their mouth is quite large and well adapted for sucking in prey whole, their teeth are quite small for their size. Don’t let their relatively slow swimming mannerism fool you. Goliaths are capable of powerful short bursts for overtaking slow-moving prey. READ MORE . . . . .

GOLIATH COURTSHIP

Unlike one of their closer kin, the Nassau grouper, which typically spawn in mass under a full moon, the actual mating ritual for goliaths still remains shrouded in mystery. This is largely because no one has been able to document this event properly, much to the frustration of many underwater photographers and fish biologists who would love to have captured it on camera. READ MORE . . . . .

GOLIATH ECONOMICS AND TOURISM

Using the Palm Beach County coast as a benchmark, it’s taken more than 25 years to bring us what we have today. Furthermore, while we can see that the southwestern regions of Florida’s Gulf coast, along with this part of Florida’s east coast have shown the greatest signs of this fish’s comeback, the rest of the state has not seen an equivalent rebound. READ MORE . . . . .