The Goliath Grouper Is Endangered Species
If anyone at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference walked into Sarah Frias-Torres’ talk on Goliath Grouper Friday thinking that fish are not sexy, they walked out afterwards as converts.
One of five panelists at “Florida’s Iconic Critters,” a discussion about the survival struggles of some of the state’s most iconic wildlife species, Frias-Torres – a marine biologist with the Ocean Research and Conservation Association — brought hilarity with a breathless account of the charismatic fish’s courtship.
“I have an urge for sex,” she drawled, narrating the thought process of the dour-faced, brown and white mottled fish swimming along the ocean floor, shown on a video screen behind her.
“Imagine …you see other groupers like you and you say, ‘Well, here we are, we are going to have some fun,’” she continued, explaining that the species – also known as Jewfish and now listed as “critically endangered” – swim up to 100 miles to collective spawning grounds to pick a mate.
After milling around changing colors to impress one another, a male will zero in on a female.
“They swim alongside you and they start booming sweet nothings to you, ‘Boom, boom, boom!’” Frias-Torres continued, raising her voice and picking up speed to get the point across.
“And you say, ‘I’m so ready to go’ and you roll over and show your big belly full of eggs, and they say ‘Boom’ to you at 160 decibels like a jet
engine, saying ‘Let’s go baby!’”
After the eggs are released and fertilized, “then you are just this big smiling fish, you are all happy … and you say, ‘Honey, I have a headache now. I’m going home.’”
Her audience, including Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, gulped and giggled. Ari Odzer, a reporter with
NBC Miami who was there to moderate the discussion, leaned over and pretended to turn down the volume on Frias-Torres’ microphone.
“We’ll have a complaint from next door to keep the noise down,” he joked.