Residency and Fine-scale Habitat Use of Juvenile Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus Itajara) in a Mangrove Nursery


The Atlantic goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) is the largest grouper species in the Atlantic and exhibits high site fidelity and limited range of movement. By 1990, the goliath grouper population in US waters had declined approximately 95% relative to unfished levels, leading to a harvest ban in 1990. Since then, the south Florida population has grown but the magnitude of recovery remains unknown due to uncertainties about life history characteristics. However, despite these unknowns, the state of Florida approved a limited recreational harvest of goliath grouper. In 2021, fine-scale habitat use of three juvenile goliath grouper was investigated using acoustic telemetry and a positioning solver. All three individuals exhibited high site fidelity as well as a diel habitat use pattern, utilizing seagrass habitat during the night and mangrove habitat during the day. Fine-scale acoustic telemetry provides insight into not only habitat use, but broader habitat preferences as well. This study illustrates the need to consider deep seagrass-dominated channels lined with red mangroves when protecting juvenile goliath grouper populations within Florida Bay, especially as the population is opened to harvest.

Bulletin of Marine Science 99: 111-118