Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Plectropomus pessuliferus
Species Authority: (Fowler, 1904)
Common Name(s):
English Roving Coralgrouper, Violet Coral Trout, Leopard Grouper
French Merou-loche Vagabonde, Saumonee Leopard
Spanish Mero Errante
Perca miniata variety C Forsskål, 1775 [ambiguous synonym]
Plectropoma maculatum variety A (Playfair, 1867) [ambiguous synonym]
Plectropoma maculatum variety D Playfair & Gunther, 1867
Plectropoma pessuliferum Fowler, 1904
Plectropomus pessulifer (Fowler, 1904)
Plectropomus pessuliferum subspecies pessuliferum (Fowler, 1904)
Plectropomus pessuliferus (Fowler, 1904)
Taxonomic Notes: Heemstra and Randall (1993) - Two subspecies are recognized: P. pessuliferus marisrubri in the Red Sea, and P. pessuliferus pessuliferus from the rest of the Indo-Pacific region. Often misidentified as P. maculatus, however P. pessuliferus differs from P. maculatus in having the longest gill rakers shorter than longest gill filaments, some spot on body vertically elongate, and pelvic fins with blue spots (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Ferreira, B.P., Gaspar, A.L.B., Samoilys, M., Choat, J.H. & Myers, R.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Plectropomus pessulferus is Near Threatened because of an inferred global population decline of close to 30%. In parts of the Red Sea, the declines are significantly greater relative to other locales.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: General
Plectropomus pessulferus has a widespread but disjunct distribution from the Red Sea to Fiji.

Red Sea, Zanzibar, Maldives, Lacaadives, St. Brandon's Shoals, Sri Lanka, Chagos, Nazareth Bank, Sumatra, and Fiji (Heemstra and Randall 1993). Recently recorded from Tonga (Randall et al. 2003).

Subspecies localities
Plectropomus pessuliferus marisburi occurs in the Red Sea, while Plectropomus pessuliferus pessuliferus from the rest of the Indo-Pacific region. Occurs in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Indonesia (Bali, Java and Sumatra), Israel, Jordan, Maldives, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Tonga, and Yemen.
Countries occurrence:
British Indian Ocean Territory; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; India; Indonesia; Israel; Jordan; Kenya; Maldives; Mauritius; Myanmar; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Pacific – western central
Lower depth limit (metres): 147
Upper depth limit (metres): 3
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: General
Plectropomus pessulferus is rare to uncommon throughout most of its range, with higher abundances in the Maldives and the Red Sea. There is no specific information available on its abundance (Morris et al. 2000).

Fisheries-dependent data
Fisher interviews suggest declines in some areas. It is highly targeted in the Red Sea, particularly by spear. Based on its general abundance (rare to uncommon), declines in certain areas can be inferred. It is virtual absence from Eritrea following heavy fishing.

Sattar and Adam (2005) in review of grouper fishery in Maldives presented some information about Plectropomus pessulferus fisheries in this area, as demonstrated here. In early stages of Maldives fisheries Plectropomus pessulferus was considered “red” category, the most valuable, and all others groupers were considered as “black”. Rf. 14.00 was the value of individuals of Plectropomus pessulferus measuring more than 20 cm total length, while Rf. 13.00 was given for individuals of black group in the same size. The total catch in Maldives is declining because of the decreasing catch and because smaller individuals being taken in the fishery. The average size of Plectropomus pessulferus in the fishery is 40.2 cm, with the most common length 40.0 cm, and the maximum length catch was 86.0 cm.

Fishing pressure on grouper continues to increase in Maldives and many sites show signs of local over-fishing (Sluka part 3). A survey of 18 fishermen was conducted from Faafu Atoll to reveal P. pessuliferus (together with E. fuscoguttatus, P. areolatus, P. laevis, C. argus, C, miniata, A. rogaa, A. leucogrammicus and V. louti) to be the most commonly caught species, suggesting the use of this species as the indicator species in the proposed “Grouper Management Plan for Faafu Atoll”.

According to Robinson Jan (pers. comm.), Plectropomus pessuliferus is common to Seychelles fisheries. However, it is not routinely monitored for fisheries catch and effort data. Thus, published or grey literature with regards to P. pessuliferus is lacking. This species is more common at the coral atolls to the south of the archipelago, where it is lightly fished. On the banks of the Mahe Plateau, surrounding the main granitic islands where most of the population resides, this species is rare to largely absent from catches. As there are no decent historical data, it is not known if this id due to fishing pressure or lack of favored habitat, although it is probably a combination of the two. From CPUE data, a decline is observed in the groupers family from areas close to centers of population.

Export oriented trade of groupers started in the Maldives in 1993. Catches rose from 200 t in 1994 to 1,000 t in 1995 (Sattar and Adam 2005). This fishery has been considered opportunistic and unregulated (Sattar and Adam 2005, citation of work from MRC). Total catches of groupers in the Maldives are declining both from smaller numbers and smaller individuals taken in the catch.

The fishery-dependent data presented here were compiled by Fallatah (2005) (Figure 1) and they are based on the Fisheries Statistics bulletins published by the Marine Fisheries Department, Ministry of Agriculture of Arabia Saudita between 1995 and 2002. Catch of Plectropomus pessulferus takes place along the Red Sea Coast in three places, namely the northern, the central and the southern, through traditional fishing boats and methods (hand line, gill net, and traps). In the northern and central areas the quantity caught is much higher than southern area. Between 1995 and 2002 hand line dominated catches (79.6% of production), while gill nets and traps do not exceed 1%. Hand line also had stability in catches along this period, while gill net and traps demonstrated a grate drop in catch. However there was an increase in quantities catch by other means of catch, due a reduction in boats and increase in yield, which raised the catch per trip (Fallatah 2005). The annual average catch of Plectropomus pessulferus was 384 tons. Figure 1 shows the total catch of Plectropomus pessulferus from 1995 to 2002, which represents 2.3% of the total catch of fish the in the coastline of Red Sea in Saudi Arabia during this period. Generally the catch is consistent, but a gradual reduction in northern and central areas and an increase in south can be observed. However, in southern area P. areolatus (species considered economically important too) is misidentified as Plectropomus pessulferus, so its land catch may be overestimated in this area (Fallatah 2005).

See the supplementary material for Figure 1: catches of P. pessuliferus by traditional fishing boats for 1995 to 2002 period at the Red Sea Coast in Kingdom Saudi Arabia.

Fishery independent
In Republic of Maldives the diurnal activity patterns of six grouper species (Cephalopholis argus, C. miniata, Epinephelus merra, Plectropomus areolatus, P. laevis, P. pessuliferus) were studied on coral reefs between Gamu and Baresdhoo islands (Sluka (Part 1 ). Due to low numbers of roving coralgrouper observations in a study conducted between March and June 1998, Sluka (2000) could not used statistical analyses to infer about timing, location and characteristics of spawning aggregations for P. pessuliferus in Republic of Maldives. One hundred and forty three individual grouper were observed; among these six species, Plectropomus pessulferus was the species with minor abundance (n=7).

In the South Sanai (Egypt) Red Sea P. pessuliferus was not recorded in a work focused on the impacts of tourists’ activities (Leujak 2006, Millport, UK, University of London, Ph.D.: 517 pp). Part of the research involved the establishment of a permanent monitoring program in the Gulf of Aqaba during 2001 to 2003. An assessment of fish communities was made at seven monitoring stations at 3 m and 10 m depth. Fish abundances at each station were estimated by underwater visual census along 4 x 50 m (total 200 m) transects. Fish were counted within 5 m to either side of the observer’s path, yielding a censused area of 2,000 m² at each depth, and a total survey area of 4,000 m² per station. Plectropomus pessulferus was not recorded in these underwater visual censuses. Fishing in the Gulf of Aqaba is carried out only by resident Bedouin communities, with groupers being a main target species (Ashworth 2006). Artisanal Bedouin fishing is low-intensities and Ras Mohammed National Park is closed to inshore fishing activities.

Plectropomus pessulferus seems to be naturally rare in the Red Sea. In February 2006 in a survey of shallow water fish communities along the Baluchistan coast of Pakistan, roving coralgrouper does not seem to occur there (Leujak pers. obs.).

Table 1 provides some length information from fishes captured during experimental fishing trials in the Maldives.

See the supplementary material for Table 1: Life history data from the Workshop on Integrated Reef Resources Management in the Maldives Paper 3: Exploitation of Reef Resources: Grouper and other Food Fishes.
For further information about this species, see 132775_Plectropomus_pessuliferus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: General
Plectropomus pessulferus is strongly coral reef-associated and is an uncommon species found in shallow lagoon and seaward reefs. It occurs at depths of 3 to 147 m (Heemstra and Randall 1993, Myers and Samoilys pers. comm.) and has a maximum size of 120 cm TL (Red Sea) and at least 63 cm (TL) (other parts of the Indo-Pacific) (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Feeding and ecology
It is piscivores (Durville et al. 2003). As other groupers, Plectropomus pessulferus has shown to have specific microhabitats that are utilized preferentially to the surrounding general habitat. For example, in Maldives, Shepherd et al. (apud Sluka and Reichenbach 1996) reported that Plectropomus pessulferus has higher biomass on slopes adjacent to unmined reef flats, than in mined flats. And in Laamu Atoll this species was most abundant in faro reef slopes (Sluka 2001).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): General
The greatest threat to Plectropomus pessulferus is overfishing, followed by habitat loss and degradation.

The demand for live reef fish by southeast Asian markets has resulted in intense fishing pressure on coral-reef fish resources throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Among the main coral-reef fish in demand is the grouper species Plectropomus pessulferus (Sluka 2000). In Maldives, it is one of the most important species in the live trade (Sattar and Adam 2005). In some of its range dynamite/cyanide fishing is practiced (Morris et al. 2000). It is heavily overfished in parts of the Red Sea.

Conservation actions seem to cover only in a few areas over its broad distribution. It has been previously assessed as vulnerable, and it seems to be the status of this species, unless the combination of high value in the live reef fish market, rarity, declining catch rates and absence of information/records in several areas within its distribution can be considered as indicative of an endangered status.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Plectropomus pessulferus is protected in the Ras Mohammed National Park, Dungonab and Sanganeb Marine Parks (Sudan) and other marine protected areas throughout it s range.

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture is concerned with the protection of Plectropomus pessulferus and P. areolatus along the coast, therefore fishing was prohibited during the closed season. This management method started in 1994; and the closed season was from April 15 to 14 June. Catching of these two species was also prohibited during the years (1995-1999-2001), so the landed catch in these periods was markedly decreased (Fallatah 2005).

There is a quota for aquarium fish trade in Maldives: 15,000.00 (Sattar and Adam 2005). An assessment of Morris et al. (2000) already led to the classification of roving coralgrouper as a vulnerable species (VU 2Ad).

Citation: Ferreira, B.P., Gaspar, A.L.B., Samoilys, M., Choat, J.H. & Myers, R. 2008. Plectropomus pessuliferus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132775A3448422. . Downloaded on 07 October 2015.
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