June 27, 2008

A Teary Goodbye to Likable Gordon: The Gregarious Grouper Died at Elderly Age of 23

By Richard Stewart, Houston Chronicle

Jun. 27--Gordon, a 327-pound Queensland grouper who was the undisputed star of the aquarium at Lake Jackson's Sea Center Texas since the facility opened in 1996, has died from complications following an eye injury.

The refrigerator-size fish was so popular with children visiting the center that his birthday was celebrated every May. He was 23 -- considered quite elderly for fish of his species held in captivity.

"There were tears," said Jennifer Bixby, a Sea Center biologist who was with Gordon to the very end. "There were definitely lots of tears."

"He was quite a ham," said Sea Center Director David Abrego.

Biologists think Gordon's final decline started about two months ago when his right eye was injured, probably in an encounter with a shark in his tank.

When visitors would walk up to the 52,000-gallon tank he shared with other sea life, the huge gray fish would often approach the glass as if to greet them.

Unlike most of the sea life on display at the center, Gordon was not a native of Texas. He started life in Australian waters, spent some time in a Houston family's fish tank before outgrowing it and then lived at the aquarium at the San Antonio Zoo.

When he outgrew his home there, he moved to Lake Jackson in Brazoria County.

Sea Center is mainly a Texas Parks and Wildlife research center and fish hatchery. Millions of speckled trout, redfish and other species are born there every year and released in coastal waters.

But to most visitors, Gordon was always the star.

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