Wildlife Fact Sheets

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

Epinephelus itajara

  • Life Span
    The oldest recorded Goliath grouper was 37, but some scientists think we can live up to 50 years!
  • Habitat
    I like the rock, coral and mud bottoms in waters up to 150 ft. We’re also one of the few grouper species that can be found in brackish (aka slightly salty) waters. We hang out there when we’re young.
  • Range
    In the Western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Preferred Food
    I like crustaceans like lobsters and crabs, fish, octopi and juvenile sea turtles.


There’s no mistaking me—I’m one of the biggest fish in the sea! Even though I’m one of the largest groupers in the world (growing to up to 8 ft!), don’t let my size intimidate you. It’s a good thing if you see me. Reefs are considered healthier if you see one of us swimming around because we help maintain balance in the ecosystem. I use my large mouth to suck in whole fish or invertebrates, then swallow them right away. I don’t even take time to chew!

Did You Know?

Our populations are in trouble. Scientists estimate that historical overfishing decreased our numbers by about 80%, and it’s been a long road to recovery. We’re also slow to rebound because of our slow growth rate and late age of maturity. Clearly, we have more work to do to get back to healthy numbers!

Status and Conservation

Although I prefer to be alone most of the time, I get pretty social around breeding season. We use the lunar cycle as our guide and spawn between July and September. When it’s time to spawn, we gather in massive groups of 100 or more individuals! There we participate in broadcast spawning, meaning the males release sperm and the females release eggs into the water column at the same time. After they’re fertilized, the eggs drift around in the currents until they finally hatch.

While these massive spawning events are a blast because I get together with all my friends, historically it has been a dangerous time for us because it’s easy then for fishermen to catch us in big numbers. Thankfully, due to a moratorium on fishing, our spawning aggregations are returning to historical numbers and the condition of our stock is improving!

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