I am about to end the dive. I have been swimming back over a shallow sand patch for a few minutes and I can see the hull of the boat as a dark shadow under the surface. Suddenly a large Nassau Grouper comes right up to me from a small coral head on the bottom. This one is not big. It is maybe a couple of feet long. They can get up to 4 feet and 50 pounds in weight.
It swims right up in front of my camera and starts a strange display. It swims back and fourth with its head, mouth open and close to the camera lens. I look at my buddy and laugh in my regulator. Never seen anything like it. It goes on for a long while. I fire the flashes and move around it to get pictures. All the time it does the same. I stretch out my hand to see if it maybe is used to be fed and are interested to look for food in my hand, but it seems more interested in the camera. When I hold the large glass dome in front, it is like it poses in front of a mirror.
I have seen a lot of Nassau Groupers but never interacted like this. Usually they are semi-shy and move away when I get close.
The Nassau Grouper is on the watch list of the US National Marine Fisheries Service and are currently rated “Specie of concern”. It seems that the numbers have been sharply reduced by overfishing in recent years, and it is a slow breeder. The species is highly vulnerable to overexploitation, and is now also on the Red List of IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature.
It is still a common sight diving in the Bahamas but who knows how long that lasts.
If anyone reading this have theories about the display or information about the health of the specie, please send me a note.