East West Goliath
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East West Goliath
This species occurred historically in tropical and subtropical waters of both the western Atlantic (both coasts of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean south through the coasts of Brazil) and the Eastern Atlantic off the coast of tropical East Africa. Populations are on decline throughout their range and have all but vanished from East African waters.
Low-relief natural reefs, high-relief artificial reefs, and shipwrecks that dot the east and west Florida shelves, provide the architectural complexity that Goliath Grouper and many other reef fishes seek. Goliath Grouper enhance the structural complexity of these sites by excavating sediment from around the reef base, and in so doing, increase the abundance and diversity of other resident species. Most adult Goliath Grouper are found either alone or in small groups in relatively shallow water on these reefs and wrecks outside of the spawning season. They migrate during the summer often up to 100 km from inshore to spawning sites occurring at depths up to 50 m. Here, they aggregate in groups of roughly 100 individuals typically on rock ledges, isolated patch reefs, or ship wrecks. Spawning occurs from July through September in the northern hemisphere and from December through February in the southern hemisphere.
The western boundary Nelligan East Claim Block is located 8km east of the Joe Mann Mine. The Joe Mann Mine operated from 1956 to 2007. A total of 4.4 million tonnes of ore was extracted from the underground operation grading 8.26 g/t gold for 1.17 million ounces of gold, 5 g/t silver for 607,000 ounces of silver, and 0.25% copper for 28.7 million pounds of copper (Doré Copper Mining, 2020).
The Nelligan West Claim Block is located at the western end of the Nelligan Trend, some 30km from the Nelligan Gold Deposit. The Nelligan Deposit hosts Inferred Mineral Resources of 97.0 million tonnes grading 1.02 g/t Au (for 3.2 million ounces of gold) (IAMGOLD, 2019). At the Nelligan Gold Deposit, gold occurs in a series of subparallel alteration zones, up to 200m wide consisting of silica, iron carbonate, potassium and sodium feldspars, iron oxide as hematite, and up to 30% pyrite as disseminations and semi-massive lenses with minor chalcopyrite. Visible gold is rare and it is found in association with quartz-carbonate veinlets or between pyrite grains. The gold mineralization at the Joe Mann Mine is hosted in sulphide bearing quartz veins, and has been mined to a vertical depth of -1,200m along a 2km strike length.
The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), also known as the jewfish, is a saltwater fish of the grouper family and one of the largest species of bony fish. The species can be found in the west ranging from northeastern Florida, south throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and along South America to Brazil. In the west Pacific it ranges from Mexico to Peru. In the east the species ranges in West Africa from Senegal to Cabinda. The species has been observed at depths ranging from 1 to 100 meters (3 to 328 feet).
The Atlantic goliath grouper can grow to lengths of 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) and weigh up to 363 kilograms (800 pounds). The species ranges in coloration from brownish yellow to grey to greenish and has small black dots on the head, body and fins. Individuals less than 1 meter (3.28 feet) in length have 3 to 4 faint vertical bars present on their sides. The species has an elongate body with a broad, flat head and small eyes. The lower jaw has 3 to 5 rows of teeth with no front canines. The scales are ctenoid. The dorsal fins are continuous with the rays of the soft dorsal fin being longer than the spines of the first dorsal fin. The pectoral fins are rounded and notably larger than the pelvic fins. The caudal fin is also rounded. The species typically preys on slow moving fish and crustaceans.
Adult individuals are typically found in rocky reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, and oil platforms. The species can also be found in coral reef habitats, but are much more abundant in rocky reef environments. Juveniles mainly inhabit mangrove environments, but can also be found in holes and under ledges of swift tidal creeks that drain mangroves. Mangroves serve as an essential nursery habitat for the Atlantic goliath grouper and necessitate specific suitable water conditions to nurture healthy, sustained goliath grouper populations. Juvenile goliath groupers may remain in mangrove nursery habitats for 5 to 6 years before leaving towards deeper offshore reef habitats at around 1 meter in length.
Atlantic goliath groupers are highly susceptible to rapid population decline due to overfishing and the exploitation of spawning aggregations. The species has a brief annual larval settlement period, making the species' abundance extremely vulnerable to outside factors such as poor weather conditions. High mercury concentrations in older males may lead to liver damage and/or death and reduce egg viability. The degradation of mangroves, which serve as an important nursery habitat for the species provide a major threat to juvenile survival. The species was previously classified as critically endangered in 2011 and is currently classified as vulnerable in 2021. A 2016 stock assessment model indicates that there has been an absolute population reduction of around 33% from 1950 to 2014. There has been a complete moratorium on the fishing of this species in continental U.S. waters since 1990 and in U.S. Caribbean waters since 1993.
In October 2021, Florida Fish and Wildlife proposed to allow the fishing of 200 juvenile goliath grouper per year including up to 50 from Everglades National Park. Fishing would be permitted in all state waters except those of Palm Beach County south through the Atlantic coast of the Keys. Final approval of the proposal is scheduled for March 2022.
The Atlantic goliath grouper was historically referred to as the "jewfish". The name's origin is unclear. A 1996 review of the term's history from its first recorded usage in 1697 concluded that the species' physical characteristics were frequently connected to "mainstay caricatures of anti-Semitic beliefs", whereas the interpretation that the fish was regarded as kosher food had little support. Alternate explanations include derivation from the Italian word "giupesce", which means "bottom fish", or mispronunciation of the name "jawfish". In 2001, the American Fisheries Society changed the name to "goliath grouper" after complaints that the nickname was culturally insensitive.
A giant of the grouper family, the goliath (formerly called jewfish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail. It also has five dark body bands or stripes that are most visible on young goliath.
Goliath grouper is the largest of the Atlantic groupers. This giant can reach 800 pounds (455 kg) and over 8 feet (2 meters) in length. The Florida record is a 680-pound goliath grouper caught off Fernandina Beach in 1961. Prior to harvest being prohibited in 1990, the species had been targeted both commercially and recreationally since at least the late 1800s.
There are a number of factors that make goliath susceptible to overfishing, including declines in juvenile habitats, a tendency to gather in high numbers at predictable locations during spawning events, and being long lived. Goliath are also susceptible to large-scale mortality events, such as cold snaps and red tide blooms.
When not feeding or spawning, adult goliath groupers are generally solitary, sedentary, and territorial. Before goliath grouper reach full-size may be preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel and moray eels as well as sandbar and hammerhead sharks. Once fully grown, large sharks are the goliath grouper's only natural predators.
In waters off Florida, young goliath grouper spend up to 5-6 years in estuaries and mangrove habitats. Areas such as the Ten Thousand Islands in southwest Florida seem to be a center of abundance for juvenile goliath and may serve as critical nursery habitat. As they grow, goliath grouper move to shallow reefs, eventually joining adult populations offshore on shallow artificial and natural reefs. Adults seem to prefer habitat with high relief or structure such as overhangs, ledges, bridges, piers, and shipwrecks.
Reproductive maturity first occurs in fish 5 or 6 years of age (about 36 inches in length). Males mature at a smaller size (about 42 inches) and slightly younger age than females. Females first mature at 6-7 years of age and 47-53 inches in length. In the eastern Gulf, goliath grouper have been known to form spawning groups of 100 individuals or more. These groups occur at consistent sites such as wrecks, rock ledges and isolated patch reefs during July, August and September. Studies have shown fish may move up to 62 miles (100 km) from inshore reefs to these spawning sites. In southwest Florida, presumed courtship behavior has been observed during the full moon in August and September.
Alternative management goals and metrics were adopted in 2018 to evaluate the stock through ongoing research. These goals and metrics provide a way to assess goliath without conducting a full-scale traditional fisheries stock assessment.
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