Animal Spotlight: Nassau Grouper


When diving in Grand Turk there are a lot of critters you run into. Some are locals, some invasive, some shy and some are very friendly. The Nassau Grouper is a medium to large sized fish (up to that 55 lbs) falls into the local friendly neighbor category. They have no qualms about following you around your dives. They are handsome fish and range in color from red at deeper depths to beige in the shallows with black spots and forked stripes around the eyes. They are usually solitary and gather once a year to breed in massive groups. During these times, they are more susceptible to overfishing so the Bahamas put a restriction on fishing them during their breeding season.

Threatened Species

Nassau Groupers are considered threatened because of commercial and recreational fishing along with reef destruction. Their curiosity and size make them a great catch for locals. They can be found in the western Atlantic between Florida, Bahamas, Brazil and in a few locations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Neighborhood Watch

They are bold enough to swim right up to you on a dive. I have even had one follow me around for the entire 40 minutes. When we surfaced the dive master told us that they are waiting to see if he catches any lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive species and a big problem for reefs. They can outcompete, out eat and outsmart their competitors. They also happen to be full of poisonous barbs. The barbs make them an off the menu item for most predators when they are alive. But once dead, the barbs relax and the like of the Nassau Grouper are in for a treat. Divemasters carry small spears to kill any lionfish they find on the reef. The Groupers follow along with the shadow of a promise for a meal. Aside from fine dining on lionfish, the solitary creatures also eat other fish, lobsters, and crabs.

Animal Spotlight: Sea Turtles

When scuba diving around Grand Turk it is not unusual to spot turtles Hawksbill, loggerhead and green sea turtles can all be found nesting, feeding and living around the islands.

Turtles in History

Traditionally, sea turtles provided an important source of meat for native islanders. With the tourist population soaring and the conservation concerns surrounding the turtle population, this has ceased to be an issue. Turtles are protected in TCI and seen as an important draw for tourists.

Life Cycle

Turtles come to shore to nest, returning to the places that they were born to bury dozens of eggs before returning to the sea. The baby turtles hatch 6-10 weeks later and must dig themselves out which may take a few days. At which point (preferably at night) they make a mad dash to the sea trying to avoid any predators on their way. They instinctively swim against the current non-stop for up to 24 hours.

The turtles rarely lay on the more populated islands in TCI and much prefer the isolation and anonymity of the tiny surrounding islands. Juvenile turtles travel back to the shallows of TCI reefs to feed on coral and seagrass beds. They move on to greater pastures when they are large enough and return only to lay eggs. The adult breeding grounds can be located thousands of miles from the nesting area so adults do not necessarily migrate every year.

Turtles Today

Turtles are on the endangered species list. They suffer directly from human consumption. Turtles at sea become tangled in old fishing nets, plastic can connectors and have been found with garbage in their stomachs. Turtles eat jellyfish and sometimes mistake plastic bags for a tasty treat. They also have been found with plastic straws logged in their noses. This causes massive discomfort, infection and potentially death. You can help by saying no to plastic bags- bring your reusables! They come small enough to fit in your purse or pocket and you never know when you will need it. Also, say no to plastic straws. If you are a straw person, carry your own glass or metal one, if you aren't- enjoy your drinks right from the glass.

Sea turtles are a magical site while scuba diving on the wall. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to see one on your trip. And we can all do our part to protect them for future generations to come.