Not all endangered species are cute and furry, and many people forget that there are endangered species that also exist in our oceans.
I'd like you to meet the Gulf Grouper (Mycteroperca jordani). Sure, he's not the prettiest of fish, but he most certainly has his place on the food chain and is just as important as all the colorful, fancy aquatic cousins of his. The Gulf Grouper is a pretty amazing fish that can weigh up to 200 pounds and grow up to 4.9 feet. They dine on crustaceans and other large fish.
These guys live a long time-up to 48 years, as a matter of fact! The females are not even able to breed until they are 6 years old. On top of that, they don't even stay female! They later transition into males, which is what we call protogunous hermaphroditic. Once a year they meet up during a full moon in May at reefs and sea mounts in the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean from La Jolla, California to Mazatlan, Mexico to spawn. This once a year escapade can make them highly susceptible to being harvested.
Juvenile groupers (up to two years old) live in sargassum beds, seagrass areas, mangroves, and estuaries along shallow coastal areas. However, once they are large enough, they move to deeper areas such as rocky reefs, kelp beds and sea mounts, particularly during the summer months.
Unfortunately, in 2016 the Gulf Grouper was put on the Endangered List. While they used to exist in large numbers,, there is now less than 1% left.* This has been caused by direct harvest, the loss of reef habitats, climate change impacts upon coral ecosystems, and bycatching. Bycatching is when fisheries are targeting other species and other animals, like the grouper, get caught up with them.
Sadly, there is no conservation efforts to help the gulf grouper. There is a lack of proper regulations and management plans, as well as a lack of necessary resources to allow fish stock recovery. The future is not looking bright for this mighty fish. Our hope is that one day humans will care for not only the cute and cuddly, but all the magnificent creatures that live on this earth.
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