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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sea Things #10: Nassau Grouper

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Groupers are cool.  They really are.  I certainly would not have guessed before I became a scuba diver that one of my favorite animals to interact with underwater would be a Grouper - a fish that I'm used to only interacting with in the form of a delicious sandwich.

Nassau Groupers are Epinephelus striatus, and can get pretty big - up to about 55 pounds.  We've seen them all over the Caribbean, but they are certainly the biggest and most prolific in Little Cayman.  Here, the groupers are friendly, like dogs.  They will swim up to divers when the boat arrives, and follow the divers around.  They will let divers touch and pet them, really not caring at all.  In exchange, they want to be fed.  They will swim up to a hole in a coral head that contains a squirrel fish, and will wait for a diver to scare the little fish out.  Then -- GULP.  All in one bite.  Really not that much different from a Labrador Retriever, huh?

Some groupers in Little Cayman are so famous that they have even been written about.  Interesting.  And, here is an interview with Ben the Grouper.

Here, a friendly grouper follows Matt around:

And, here's my conservation story about Groupers.  First of all, they are friendly, and quite honestly, surprisingly cute.  They're good fish, they breed slowly, and they have the potential to help control the Lionfish population.  They do taste good, trust me, I know, I've eaten grouper before and it was one of my favorite fish to eat for a long, long time.  But, they are over fished horribly, and it really shows when we dive in places where they're not protected (like they are in Little Cayman).  We saw very few in Bonaire, and even fewer in Belize.  If we aren't careful, they will be gone.  Not to mention, that they are smart and friendly.  So, please don't eat Grouper, and if you do, make sure it is farmed.  Nassau Grouper is endangered and may soon be extinct, so no matter how tasty it is, it really isn't worth it.

There is no diver sign for the Nassau Grouper besides pointing in a way that says "awesome fish ahead!"

And finally, here is me with a friendly grouper.

More info:

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

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