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Nassau Grouper

Nassau Grouper

Public domain photograph by OAR/
National Undersea Research Program (NURP)
From the library of the NOAA
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
US Department of Commerce)
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Epinephelus striatus

The Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus, is one of the large number of Perciform fish in the family Serranidae that are commonly referred to as groupers. It is the most important of the groupers for commercial fishery in the West Indies but has been endangered by overfishing.

The Nassau Grouper is a medium to large fish, growing to over a metre in length and up to 25Kg in weight. Its colour varies depending on circumstances. In shallow water, it is basically tawny, but specimens from deeper water are pinkish or red, sometimes orange-red. Individual fish also change colour as a function of motivational state. Superimposed on this base colour are a number of lighter stripes, darker spots, bars and patterns including black spots below and behind the eye, and a forked stripe on the top of head.

The Nassau Grouper lives in the sea, preferring to be near reefs; it is one of the largest fish to be found around coral reefs. It can be found anywhere from the shoreline to nearly 100m depth. It is a fish of the western Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda, Florida and the Bahamas in the north to southern Brazil, but it is only found in a few places in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a solitary fish, feeding in the daytime, mainly on other fish and crabs. It spawns in December and January, always around the time of the full moon, and always in the same locations.

The Nassau Grouper is fished both commercially and for sport; it is less shy than other groupers, and is readily approached by scuba divers. However, its numbers have been sharply reduced by overfishing in recent years, and it is a slow breeder. Furthermore its historic spawning areas are easily targeted for fishing, which tends to remove the reproductively active members of the group. The species is therefore highly vulnerable to overexploitation, and is recognised as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The United States, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas governments have banned fishing for it in recent years - in the case of the Cayman Islands, until the end of 2011 in the spawning holes, and in the case of the Bahamas, for the months of December 2003 to February 2004, with similar closures likely in future years.

The Nassau Grouper has been depicted on postage stamps of Cuba (1965, 1975), the Bahamas (1971 5 cent), and Antigua and Barbuda (1987 40c).

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