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Bluey, the Cronulla Blue Groper back?

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True Bluey or not, snorkellers hail Elvis of the sea

Ilya Gridneff

January 15, 2012

BLUEY'S back. Or is he? The legendary Clovelly Bay groper, famed for befriending many a Sydney snorkeller, may have returned. Or he's spawned a family.

Intriguingly, the new Bluey on the block could also be a female that has changed sex and simply replaced him, a phenomenon characteristic of the eastern blue groper species.

Bluey was thrust into the spotlight in 2002, when he was "murdered" by an unknown spear fisherman. So loved was the fish, the then NSW premier Bob Carr called the killer ''a mongrel'', before announcing five new aquatic reserves near Sydney beaches to protect marine life.

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''I have seen the groper,'' the premier pronounced at the time. ''I have swum with him. I know the groper, he was a friend of mine.''

But then a year or so later, Clovelly swimmers sighted Bluey, sparking debate on whether rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated. And this summer a large bright blue dominant male has been spotted.

A Coogee Pro Dive scuba master, Evan Batten, confirmed a Bluey lookalike was in the area, but said it was impossible to verify whether it was the original. Such sightings are so regular Mr Batten calls Bluey the ''Elvis of the sea''.

''Bluey is definitely a legend, he was extremely large, 1.2 metres long and a very rich blue. But did he get killed? Was it really Bluey they speared? Maybe he escaped and now has come back?''

To John Rowe, the secretary of the Gordons Bay Scuba Diving Club, Bluey is ''the Phantom'', named after the comic-strip character who never dies. While he was a long-time fan of Bluey, Mr Rowe said no one knew when the legend began ''especially because when the dominant Bluey dies a dominant female becomes the new Bluey,'' he said.

All eastern blue gropers start life as greenish-coloured females, though some will change sex and colour to become blue males.

Professor Steve Kennelly, the director of fisheries research at the Department of Primary Industries, doubts the original Bluey is still alive and suggested another fish may have simply replaced him. ''It's safe to say a Bluey or Bluey's relatives are back but it's definitely not him or his son,'' he said. ''I'd be very surprised if it was the original as he wouldn't have lasted this long.''

Professor Kennelly said public outrage over Bluey's death had helped promote a need to protect the species. It has been illegal to spear gropers since 1969 - they can only be fished with a rod and line. In 1998, the eastern blue groper was announced the official fish of NSW.

News of Bluey's possible return excited Mr Carr.

''I snorkelled at Clovelly a few weeks ago and was happy to see a family of gropers enjoying the crystal clear water with me,'' he said. ''Why anyone would spear them is still beyond my understanding.''

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/true-bluey-or-not-snorkellers-hail-elvis-of-the-sea-20120114-1q0b5.html#ixzz1jVbf1nzA

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This at the time was the biggest news and carried on for bloody months, especially in the local rag. Sure Bluey was a groper that lived locally for years in thompsons bay, had been caught a thousand times before and always replaced by another grouper who turned blue as they do.

The funniest thing is the fish was caught by a local whose real name is john whom everybody who fished in the eastern suburbs knew and if you ever wanted to find him all you had to do was walk up the road to the cloey hotel and he would be there at the front bar. The fish was actually caught on a handline, but some doo gooder around the area called the papers and changed the story from handline to speargun! Funny how clovelly was always known as poverty point and for good reasons. It wasnt untill blowins with money changed things.

So another grouper has changed sex in the bay, really whose mortified at this? This is just another rant from very ill informed people on how fish work.

Edited by finin

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im a fisho, spearfisher, diver and aquarist so mixing all sorts of marine hobby.

I personally would love to catch a groper for fun as they would give my skills some thrashing lol.

I've dived and love feeding urchins to gropers. They are puppy dogs of ocean. Some of them would go between my legs and I would kinda ride it :) coolest fish but also too friendly thus spearfishing them is a nono.

However those who haven't swam with them would just think it's a great meal (is it??)

I'm not against people fishing for gropers but I don't help them either. Though I would prefer people release the fish.

Once people interact with the fish like divers do, it's very difficult to imagine it as dinner. I mean would u eat your puppy dog??

spearing or just line fishing... either way certain fish should be given protective rights.

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Have eaten a couple of groper I caught over the years, did not find them that good to eat, rating of average.

When I scuba dived many years ago south of Cronulla along the rocks, there was one big bluey that always turned up for the urchins. Just cut off one side of the urchin and the groper would feed on the exposed meat. Held the urchin a couple of times, but usually ended up copping a few spikes into the fingers.

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