A Fine Bet For Cool Fish
John Bantin believes the rich marine life of the Medas Islands should put them high on any divers To Do list.
|The Medas Islands are well-known for big shoals of yellow-striped saupe and saddled bream, but most notable among their fish are the mero, dusky perch or wreckfish, otherwise known as the grouper. |
Not uncommon in the whole of the Mediterranean, it can be divided into a number of sub-species, including Epinphelus guaza or Alexandrinus and Polyprion americanus. Divers usually encounter them in crevices and grottoes, and close to wrecks, where they find shelter from predators.
Groupers are usually not very big but, if left to prosper, can grow to a considerable size - between 1 and 2m in length and as such are impressive.
They have always made good eating but were difficult to catch successfully with rod and line because of their tendency to retreat somewhat hurriedly into the safety of their lairs, taking the anglers tackle with them.
Once the aqualung was invented, these prized animals became sitting targets for those divers patient enough to sit at the entrances to their homes armed with spearguns. Within a few years the Mediterraneans groupers had all but disappeared.
Since that time most of the countries bordering the Mediterranean have made spearfishing with the aid of aqualungs illegal. Now the grouper is making a comeback, although it still has to resist the onslaught of skilled breath-hold spearfishermen.
It is thought to take 25 years for a grouper to reach full size, although they breed much earlier. They start life as males, later becoming females. Because they are territorial fish, if there is no suitable male available in the vicinity one female might revert back to being a male. They lead an interesting life!
The biggest Mediterranean groupers, now so rare, are probably examples of these super-males. It is only in such areas as the marine parks of the Medas Islands that they survive long enough to reach their ultimate dimensions.
Here they can be seen in considerable numbers, and often exhibit a level of intelligence unusual in bony fish. Elsewhere, encounters with divers tend to be distant or fleeting.