Lutjanus cyanopterus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Lutjanidae

Scientific Name: Lutjanus cyanopterus (Cuvier, 1828)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Cubera Snapper, Canteen Snapper, Cuban Snapper, Gray Snapper, Guasinuco
French Vivaneau Cubéra
Spanish Cubera, Cubereta, Guasinuco, Pargo, Pargo Caballo, Pargo Cubera
Lutjanus cianopterus (Cuvier, 1828)
Lutjanus cubera Poey, 1871
Lutjanus cynodon Poey, 1868
Mesoprion cyanopterus Cuvier, 1828
Mesoprion pargus Cuvier, 1828

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-10-10
Assessor(s): Lindeman, K., Anderson, W., Carpenter, K.E., Claro, R., Cowan, J., Padovani-Ferreira, B., Rocha, L.A., Sedberry, G. & Zapp-Sluis, M.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N.A.
Contributor(s): Acero, A., Appeldoorn, R., Steell, M. & Tishler, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Elfes, C., Linardich, C. & Polidoro, B.
This species is widely distributed. Due to its large size (the largest species of Lutjanus in the region) and its spawning in predictable aggregations at specific times of the year, this species is easily targeted and susceptible to overfishing. Larger individuals of this species are known to be ciguatoxic in some areas (smaller adults are often confused with Lutjanus griseus). We calculated three generation lengths to be between 33 and 39 years. Catch has declined over 60% in the US Atlantic over the last 20 years. Mixed landings reported with Gray Snapper have declined by over 50% in Cuba since the 1970s. Declines of spawning aggregations have been reported in Cuba and various areas in Brazil. Catch declines have been on the order of 50-80% in Brazil where limited data are available with the commercial extinction reported of local fisheries associated with overfishing of spawning aggregations. In the Florida Keys, the spawning potential ratio of this species was reported to be at 5% of total. There are areas where this species is not heavily targeted due to its ciguatoxicity such as Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, ~10% of the species range. We infer at least a 30% decline based on declines in landings and the heavy overfishing or complete elimination of spawning aggregations as reported in Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere. Further declines are possible based on continued targeting of spawning aggregations unless protective measures are established and enforced. This species is listed as Vulnerable under A2bd. Monitoring of the abundance of this species and the status of spawning aggregations is needed to better estimate population trends and regional extinction risk.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Lutjanus cyanopterus is distributed in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia, Canada south along the U.S. coast, Bermuda, the Bahamas, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and along the South American coast to Santa Catarina, Brazil. Its depth range is one metre to at least 85 m (Lindeman et al. 2000).
Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Canada (Nova Scotia); Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); 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 – western central; Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):85
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Adults can be most abundant in deeper waters but also occur in mid-shelf areas. 

United States
In US waters of the Atlantic Ocean, commercial landings have decreased from 3.8 mt in 1992 to 1.4 mt in 2013 (NMFS 2015a) a decline of 63%. Smaller adults can be confused with Lutjanus griseus in the Florida Keys and Northern Gulf of Mexico (K. Lindeman pers. comm. 2014). Using data from 1979-1996, Ault et al. (1998) identified potential overfishing in the Florida Keys with the stock at less than 5% of spawning potential ratio (SPR). Commercial landings from US waters of the Gulf of Mexico ranged from 0.1 to 2.2 mt yearly since 1991; landings declined from 2.2 mt in 1997 to 0.3 mt in 2005, and increased up to 1.0 mt in 2013 (NMFS 2015a). In the Gulf of Mexico, L. cyanopterus is not considered to be undergoing overfishing and it is unknown whether it is overfished or approaching overfished conditions (NMFS 2015b).

This species can be caught as bycatch in the commercial fisheries that target L. campechanus (Red Snapper) off Mexico. This species is sold in the domestic markets of mainly Mexico City and Guadalajara (SAGARPA 2012). Commercial landings mixed-snapper species (which includes L. cyanopterus) from Mexico declined from 344 mt in 2005 to 85 mt in 2011, a decline of 75% over seven years (FAO 2013).

Cubera Snapper catch statistics in Cuba are combined with Lutjanus griseus and represent about 10% of the mixed L. griseus x L. cyanopterus catch (Claro and Lindeman 2008). The total catch has declined by more than 70% over the past 20 years (R. Claro pers. comm. 2014). The cumulative landings of the two species increased in the 1970s as a result of greater fishing effort and efficiency. However, in the late 1980s the catches declined markedly to below 600 mt per year, which was half the original production. Lutjanus cyanopterus can be common and important in recreational fisheries, but because landings data are mixed, it is difficult to determine population status. Both species spawn during the same period and are targeted by fishermen when they form aggregations (Claro et al. 2009). In Cuba, declines in spawning aggregations were reported for multiple sites (Claro and Lindeman 2003). Coupled biophysical models of the transport of L griseus x L. cyanopterus complex snapper larvae suggest substantial intra-island recruitment (Paris et al. 2005).

This species has been considered part of the commercial snapper fisher in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (Appeldoorn et al. 1987). In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, populations and spawning aggregations are in part protected from over-exploitation by the believed presence of ciguatoxins (R. Appeldoorn pers. comm. 2015). Using information from Puerto Rico, Ault et al. (2008) found a SPR of 37% and concluded the species was not overfished and not undergoing overfishing. Cubera Snapper are recorded as ciguatoxic in the Virgin Islands and little or no fishery exists for the species, particularly larger individuals, in much of the Lesser Antilles (Kadison et al. 2006). In Belize, this species is primarily taken during spawning aggregations from April to May (Heyman et al. 2005). This species is also exploited as a food fish in Honduras (Gobert et al. 2005) and Jamaica (Thompson and Munro 1983). Lutjanus cyanopterus has been reported to show population declines in the southern Caribbean (Acero and Garzón 1985, A. Acero and C. Jadot pers. comm. 2009). This species has long been fished in Venezuela by multiple gears (Cervigón et al. 1992, Cervigón 1993).

This species has been heavily fished in Brazil according to many reports. In the states of Espírito Santo and Bahia, Brazil, mixed snapper fisheries statistics show a large decline, from 8-9 mt/yr from 1997-2000 to around 3.5 tons/year in 2002 (IBAMA 2003). For the mixed snapper category in Bahia, there was a drop from a maximum 523 mt/yr, in 1997 to 184 mt/yr from 2001 to 2006 (IBAMA 2008), equivalent to a 65% reduction. Landings are concentrated in the spawning aggregation months (February to March) according to REVIZEE data for the state of Bahia (Olavo et al. in prep). In Bahia Baixo Sul, interviews with fishers have indicated a five-fold CPUE reduction (200 kg/fisher/day to 40 kg/fisher/day) for the fisheries on spawning aggregations since the 1980s (Olavo et al. in prep.), which corresponds to a potential 80% decline over a period of three generation lengths (see section below). Under the scope of Pro-Arribada, an assessment of reef fishes spawning aggregations in Brazil, spawning aggregations have been recorded in the north of Bahia (Olavo et al. in prep.) and in Pernambuco and Alagoas (B. Padovani-Ferreira pers. obs. 2011). In Bahia, interviews with fisherman have revealed that the sites traditionally exploited are already overfished, with significant abundance reductions (Olavo et al. in prep.). On the Abrolhos Bank system, after years of heavy fishing, L. cyanopterus has become rare (Francini-Filho and Moura 2008). A similar situation exists for the state of Santa Catarina, where spawning aggregations have been reported during the summer months in São Francisco do Sul (Gerhardinger et al. 2007). Reports of aggregations that have altogether disappeared also exist from Florianopolis (F. Grecco pers. comm.). On the southeastern coast of Brazil, this species is threatened and categorized as “collapsed” in the Red List of vertebrates of São Paulo (Sanches et al. 2012).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Lutjanus cyanopterus is primarily a reef- and hardbottom-associated species as an adult (Starck 1970), but associates with shallow vegetation during early life stages (Lindeman and DeMaria 2005). Adults can be found on the fore slope of deep reefs. Adults are observed at depth ranges of 18-55 m (Lieske and Myers 1994) and deeper, sometimes in association with artificial structure (e.g., lower Florida Keys, Domeier and Colin 1997). Adults can be observed at low abundance at mesophotic depths in Puerto Rico and considered ciguatoxic, especially on the south coast (R. Appeldoorn pers. comm. 2015). This species mainly feeds on ray-finned fishes and less frequently on shrimp and crabs (McEachran and Fechhelm 2005).

This species forms spawning aggregations with known sites in the Florida Keys (Domeier and Colin 1997, Lindeman et al. 2000), Cuba (Claro and Lindeman 2003), and Belize (Heyman et al. 2005, Heyman and Kjerfve 2008). There are at least six potential spawning sites in Puerto Rico and none appeared to be fished out as of 2007 (Ojeda-Serrano et al. 2007).

The maximum length observed is 160 cm TL (Allen 1985), though there are anecdotal reports of 200 cm catches. It is the largest lutjanid species in the western Atlantic. Longevity is estimated at 22 years in the US Gulf of Mexico (SERO 2010) and 20 years in the southeast coast of the US (Ault et al. 1998). It may live up to a maximum of 30 years in Colombia (A. Acero pers. comm. 2009). Minimum size of maturation was 2.3 years in Ault et al. (1998) and 4.6 years in SERO (2010) for the US Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys, respectively. Using IUCN protocols, we calculated generation length as 11 to 13 years, with a three generation length range of 33-39 years.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):11-13

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Lutjanus cyanopterus can be a locally important species due to its very large size, especially in areas where it is not ciguatoxic, a feature which affects local market interest in this species. It is exploited as a food fish in Belize, Honduras (Gobert et al. 2005), Jamaica (Thompson and Munro 1983), Cuba (Claro and Lindeman 2008), the continental United States (Lindeman et al. 2000) and Brazil (IBAMA 2008). Larger specimens are considered ciguatoxic in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and little or no fishery exists for larger individuals in most of the Lesser Antilles (Kadison et al. 2006). In some areas (e.g. the Florida Keys) smaller adults are eaten but larger specimens are commonly avoided.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Lutjanus cyanopterus populations that are not ciguatoxic are harvested by subsistence, commercial and recreational fisheries depending on the region. Spawning aggregations have been targeted by fishers in areas without ciguatoxic populations resulting in probable reductions in population numbers over decades based on fisher or fishery department communications from several greater Caribbean countries and Brazil (also see Francini Filho et al. 2004, Heyman et al. 2005). Overfishing of spawning aggregations remains a major threat to populations of this species that are not highly ciguatoxic.

Coral reef degradation due to coastal development, pollution, blast fishing and tourism may also pose significant local threats to this species. The loss of mangrove forest can impact juvenile habitat use of this species (Lindeman and DeMaria 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species was ranked as Vulnerable in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Huntsman 1996). This species has also been ranked as Vulnerable by a country-specific Red List evaluation in Colombia (Acero and Garzon 1985).
In the United States, the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils have size and catch restrictions in place for this species. For both recreational and commercial landings from areas three to 200 miles off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida, harvested individuals must be at least 12 inches in length (TL). Additionally, recreational catches are limited to no more than two per people per boat for fish 30" or larger off of the coast of east Florida (individually or in combination with black grouper).

The minimum size limit in Cuba is one pound and the maximum is 75 cm, above this it can be ciguaotoxic (Claro and Lindeman 2008). Fishing regulations to assist recovery of multispecies spawning aggregation sites including Cubera Snapper have been in place for several years in Cuba (Claro et al. 2009). However, the measurement of effectiveness has been limited. Protection of the species before, during and after spawning aggregation sequences will be fundamental to sustainable management of this species. It is suggested that in addition to protection of spawning aggregation sites, fishery management measures, such as full no take areas, may be needed (Claro and Lindeman 2003, Paris et al. 2005). The greatest needs appear to be for spawning aggregation protections and protection of mature adults during non-spawning. Monitoring of the abundance of this species and the status of spawning aggregations is needed to best estimate population trends and local and regional extinction risk.

Citation: Lindeman, K., Anderson, W., Carpenter, K.E., Claro, R., Cowan, J., Padovani-Ferreira, B., Rocha, L.A., Sedberry, G. & Zapp-Sluis, M. 2016. Lutjanus cyanopterus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12417A506633. . Downloaded on 16 October 2018.
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