This is a Nassau Grouper. Groupers are the largest fishes that actually live in the coral reef. Groupers are "lurk-and-lunge" hunters. That is, they catch other fish by finding a hiding place and waiting there for another fish to swim by so they can jump out and catch it. Although not the biggest of groupers, Nassau Groupers can be as big as 3 feet long and weigh as much as 55 pounds. This grouper is 2.5 feet long and probably weighs 40 pounds. It is a big fish.
This particular grouper is quite a character. It lives on a coral reef about 30 feet deep that is west of the island of Grand Turk. The reef is popular with divers. A divemaster (someone trained to lead other divers on scuba dives) named Austin lives on Grand Turk, and has made a friend of this grouper. Austin has named this grouper "Alexander." ReefNews visited Grand Turk in January, 1999, and I got to dive with Austin and Alexander. It was amazing. Austin was the last diver to leave the dive boat. So there we were, swimming beneath the boat, waiting for Austin to put on his gear and join us. We saw Alexander swimming nearby, and he swam close to us, but not too close. Then, when Austin jumped in the water, Alexander immediately recognized him and quickly swam to greet Austin. It was obvious that Alexander recognized Austin and was glad to see him. This fish acted like a puppy!
Alexander let Austin touch him, and with Austin nearby he let us pet him, too. Alexander's skin was slimy. Fish are covered with a thin layer of goo that makes them feel slimy. It is important not to touch them too much, or to touch them with gloves on, as this could rub off their protective layer of slime. Their slimy coat helps protect them from infections.
You can see how big Alexander is from these photos. It helps to know that Austin is a 6-foot-tall basketball player. So, if you ever visit Grand Turk, meet Austin and ask him to introduce you to his friend Alexander, the Nassau Grouper.