Lachnolaimus maximus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Lachnolaimus maximus
Species Authority: (Walbaum, 1792)
Common Name/s:
English Hogfish
French Labre Capitaine
Spanish Boquinete, Doncella de Pluma, Jaqueton Blanco, Pargo Gallo
Labrus maximus (Walbaum, 1792)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-02-04
Assessor/s: Choat, J.H., Pollard, D. & Sadovy, Y.J.
Reviewer/s: Collen, B., Richman, N., Beresford, A., Chenery, A. & Ram, M.
Contributor/s: De Silva, R., Milligan, H., Lutz, M., Batchelor, A., Jopling, B., Kemp, K., Lewis, S., Lintott, P., Sears, J., Wilson, P. & Smith, J. and Livingston, F.
Lachnolaimus maximus has been assessed as Vulnerable under criterion A2ad. Although this species has a wide distribution; the level of recreational spear-fishing is estimated to have caused a 30% decline in global population, with particular localized declines as high as 60% (Florida). This decline is thought to have occurred over three generations, which qualifies it for Vulnerable status. Although regulations including maximum size, and gear restrictions have been introduced across the Caribbean the threat from exploitation has not ceased. Further information on population and harvesting levels are required (in particular monitoring of CPUE data) to allow assessment of population trends and threat levels in to the future.
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Lachnolaimus maximus is present in the Caribbean and north to Bermuda and the Carolinas and extends southwards to the northern region of the Brazilian Coast.

This species is present in the following countries: Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Canada; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao); Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S., NE Brazil (Floeter et al. 2007).
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Brazil; Canada; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In the past Lachnolaimus maximus had moderate abundance over shallow west Atlantic coral reefs, but is now depleted in many areas due to fishing. Large populations are maintained at only a few sites including Los Roques (Venezuela), Bermuda and at some sites in the Florida Keys (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008). Overall the population has declined over most of its range.

Ault et al. (2003) report high harvesting rates for Florida with declining returns of 272 metric t in 1987 to 154 metric t in 1993 and averaging 93 metric t from 1998-2001. This represents a decline of approximately 60% over a period of 14 years. The declines are still continuing (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008). Considering together all catch and census data on the species from throughout its geographic range, it is clear that declines of at least 30% must have occurred within the last few generations (Y. Sadovy pers. comm. 2009).

This species is another of the large hypsigenyine labrids that reaches a large size but has very low population densities. At Los Roques aggregations of approximately 50 large individuals were found on shallow sandy slopes (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Lachnolaimus maximus is found on coral reefs at 3-40 m depth, especially sandy outer reef slopes. Juveniles are most common in shallow seagrass, and inshore reef habitats.

It is a monadric protogynous hermaphrodite (McBride and Johnson 2007) with a very slow rate of sex change (several months that occurs post spawning). It has an extended spawning season from January to May. In Florida, females attain sexual maturity at two years 26.0 cm (FL), sexual transition at three to five years but recorded in individuals up to 13 years. Reproductive aggregations have been observed in Los Roques (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008).  

There is considerable variation in growth and age structure over the geographic range of this species. The most detailed account (McBride and Richardson 2007) compared growth and age structure of populations from the eastern Gulf of Mexico and southern Florida (Easten Gulf of Mexico - max. age 23 years; max. size 82.4 cm (FL); von Bertalanffy Growth Function Linf 91.7 cm;  k .014; mortality rate 0.35, and South Florida -  max. age 13 years; Max size 62.2 cm (FL); von Bertalanffy Growth Function Linf 42.8 cm;  k .045 mortality rate 0.4).

A broader survey of  four Atlantic locations revealed the following: (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008) Margarita (Venuezula) -  max. age five years, max. size 35.3 cm; Los Roques (Ven) - max. age10 years, max. size 68.7 cm; Belize - max. age seven years max. size 55.4 cm; Bermuda - max. age 16 years, max. size 84.4 cm. In addition, mortality rates estimates from catch curves from Margarita and Belize (0.8, 0.7) both heavily fished, were double those from Los Roques and Bermuda where only light fishing occurs.

All populations examined for age distribution in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, South Florida, (McBride and Richardson 2007)  Belize, Los Roques, Bermuda, Margarita (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008) revealed that distribution was strongly skewed to the younger age classes varying from one to four years. Abundance estimates by Underwater Visual Census in Belize and Los Roques (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2008) revealed low densities (0.81-0.95 individuals per 1,000 m2). No counts of aggregations were made.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Lachnolaimus maximus is harvested as a food source although is of minor commercial importance and is mainly caught using hook and line. It is marketed as the 'Hog Snapper'. This species has been implicated in ciguatera (Robins et al. 1986). The 2005 total landings of L. maximus were 13% lower than the average landings over the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 42% lower than the historic average landings (1982-2005) (FWRI 2006). The latest stock assessment (SEDAR and SAFMC 2004) indicated that the hogfish fishery was severely overfished and has been for the last two decades in Florida waters (FWRI 2006). This has impacted upon the growth and recruitment of this species.

Coral reefs of the Caribbean had been heavily damaged by disease, coastal development, coral bleaching, and over-fishing. It is predicted that reefs away from population centres will remain healthy in the future, unless the adverse predictions for global climate change, of more tropical storms and bleaching occur (Andrews et al. 2004). Lachnolaimus maximus is also a common species within the aquarium trade.

Fishing pressure on this species has increased since the 1970s (Bohnsack et al. 1994) it is possible the size at maturity could decrease over time (McBride 2001). This species is currently in decline around Puerto Rico (Ojeda-Serrano et al. 2007). The estimated number of hogfish landed between 1980 and 1992 in the Monroe County area fell from 180,917 to 21,813 (Bohnsack et al. 1994). These figures fluctuated in this time period but demonstrated an overall decline.

Tupper and Rudd (2002) found that fishing pressure and depth had a marked influence on hogfish length, density and biomass, with these attributes being significantly higher on deeper reefs. In fished areas the length, density and biomass of hogfish were all significantly lower when compared to a nearby protected area. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) was much lower (half or less) in the fished zone when compared to lightly-fished or protected zones.
Although there is evidence of exploitation across this species' range the reasons behind them are understood and reversible (H. Choat pers. comm. 2009). Also, overfishing does not seem to have had an impact on recruitment (H. Choat pers. comm. 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) have established regulations for removal of Lachnolaimus maximus for both commercial and recreational purposes. These include a maximum landing size of 30.5 cm, gear restrictions, and a daily bag allowance of five hogfish per day for recreational fishers. There are a number of no-take zones in the Caribbean and total fishing is restricted to just over 300,000 ha of the wider Caribbean. 

Ault et al. (2003) suggest restricting recreational fishing in particular areas by limiting the use of SCUBA gear with spear fishing and/or limiting the amount of time during a year that spear fishing may be undertaken. Further research and monitoring of the harvest levels and population numbers of this species is needed to ensure that any future population declines are noted.

Catch per unit effort (CPUE) was much lower (half or less) in the fished zone when compared to a lightly-fished or protected zone. CPUE of hogfish decreased with increasing distance from the reserve, which suggests that spillover from the protected area can enhance the local fishery yields outside its boundaries. This indicates increasing the area covered by protected zones would benefit this species (Tupper and Rudd 2002).
Citation: Choat, J.H., Pollard, D. & Sadovy, Y.J. 2010. Lachnolaimus maximus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 16 April 2014.
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