Cephalopholis argus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Cephalopholis argus Schneider, 1801
Common Name(s):
English Peacock Grouper, Argus Grouper, Blue-spotted Grouper, Peacock Hind, Peacock Rockcod, Worldwide-peacock Rockcod
French Loche Saumonee, Merou Celeste, Merou Paon, Pintade, Saumonee, Vielle Cecille, Vielle Cuisinier, Vielle La Pruda
Spanish Cherna Pavo Real
Boadianus jacobevertsen Lacepede, 1802
Bodianus guttatus Bloch, 1790
Cepahlopholis miniatus (Bloch, 1775)
Cephalopholis argus Bloch & Schneider, 1801
Cephalopolis argus Bloch and Schneider, 1801
Epinephelus argus (Bloch and Schneider, 1801)
Serranus guttatus (Bloch, 1790)
Serranus immunerur Tholliere, 1856
Serranus myriaster Valenciennes, 1828
Serranus thyrsites Saville-Kent, 1893

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Liu, M. & Choat JH
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Peacock Grouper are assessed as Least Concern because they are very widespread and locally abundant in many areas particularly in marine protected areas. However, some areas have shown decline in fisheries catches and these (sub)populations need further monitoring. Some protection is afforded by its ciguatoxic properties in areas within its range (e.g., French Polynesia).

Fishery data:
This widespread and common species is important to artisinal fisheries throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Caught with hook-and-line, spear and traps.

In Hong Kong, C. argus are occasionally found in markets, with HK$ 35-40/pound (Min Liu pers. obs.).

In Sabah (East Malaysia), all big fish species are disappearing from the reefs. For C. argus, the population declined 97% compared to similar but unfished reefs in 1998 to 2000 (Tropical Research and Conservation Centre website, assessed 25/07/03 by Min Liu) (

FAO catch data:
Country-Saudi Arabia; Area-Indian Ocean, western (51); 2000 (18 t); 2001 (72 t).

References: FishBase, Heemstra and Randall 1993.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:General
Cephalopholis argus is the most widely distributed of the groupers, occurring from the Red Sea to South Africa and east to French Polynesia and the Pitcairn group, including northern Australia, Lord Howe Island, and Japan. It was recently introduced to the Hawaiian Islands (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Recorded from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aquaba, Gulf of Aden, Oman, Socotra, east Somalia, eastern Africa to 28°S, Comores, Madagascar, Seychelles, Aldabra, Réunion, Mauritius, Rodrígues, Chagos, Maldives, Laccadives (India), Sri Lanka, Andamans (India), west Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia (Sumatra, Bali, Sangakkaki, Borneo, east Indonesia, Minado, Togean Islands, Sulawesi, Flores, Komodo, Sunda, Raja Ampat, West Papua), Cocos-Keeling Islands, Christmas Island, Australia (Ashmore Island, Scott Reef, Rowley Shoals, NW Australian coast, Great Barrier Reef, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Lord Howe Island), Philippines, Spratly Island, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia (Chesterfields, Ouvéa), south Taiwan (Peng hu shan), Japan (Ryukyu Islands, Kawhisi-jima, south Japan, Izu Islands, Ogosawara), Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (Yap, Pohnpei, Ifalik, Chuuk, Kapingamarangi, Kosrae, south Mariana Islands), Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, United States Minor Outlying Islands (Wake Island), Fiji (including Rotuma Island), Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati (Phoenix Islands, Line Island), French Polynesia (Society Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, Rapa), and Pitcairn (Myers distributional database 2006).

Additional records
China (Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan Strait, south China Sea). Records from Howland Island, Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef (B. Mundy pers. comm.). C. argus was also introduced to Hawaii (USA) from French Polynesia in 1955-1961 (571 individuals) (Randall 1987, Planes and Lecaillon 1998).

Distribution References
Randall and Ben-Tuvia (1983), Heemstra and Randall (1993), Huang (1994), Donaldson (1995), Planes and Lecaillon (1998), Sadovy and Cornish (2000), TNC/WWF (2003).
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Australia; British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Comoros; Cook Islands; Disputed Territory; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; French Polynesia; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Northern Mariana Islands; Oman; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Pitcairn; Réunion; Samoa; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United Arab Emirates; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):40
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

This is one of the most abundant medium-sized serranids in the Indo-Pacific.

Fisheries-independent data
In addition to a wide geographic distribution, C. argus is one of the most abundant of the medium size serranids in both the Indian and Central Pacific oceans (Pears 2005). On the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) the highest abundances are in the northern regions. Replicated estimates of abundance derived from belt transects are available for the western Indian Ocean (Seychelles), the western Pacific GBR (Pears 2005) and the central Pacific (American Samoa) (A. Green pers. comm.) (Table 1).

See the Supplementary Material for Table 1: estimates of abundance derived from belt transects for the western Indian Ocean (Seychelles), the western Pacific Great Barrier Reef and the central Pacific (American Samoa).

Fisheries-dependent data
In Saudi Arabia, catch ranged from 11 to 72 mt over the period of 2000 to 2004 (

In the Maldives, there has been a slight reduction in average size since exploitation began (Sattar and Adam 2005).

Estimates of abundance from four Pacific localities (Kulbicki IRD data base adjusted to no. per 1,000 m²): Fiji (1.7), Tonga (2.7), New Caledonia (0.6) (relatively low compared to other Pacific localities subject to fishing), French Polynesia outer reefs (14.7) (exceptionally high and indicate a local constraint on fishing). All areas sampled in the Seychelles and the GBR are subject to a moderate line fishery.

In American Samoa, Rose Atoll and Ofu/Olosegu are exposed to less fishing than Tau, Tutuila and Upolu. Low abundances on the GBR are not a result of heavy fishing pressure as this species is not specifically targeted. On the GBR C. argus is a member of a complex of abundant cryptic serranids including Cephalopholis cynaostigma, C. microprion and C. boenak. In the Seychelles this complex included C. urodeta, C. miniata which are associated with high abundances of small Epinephelus fasciatus.

Despite heavy fishing pressure in areas such as Samoa this species maintains healthy populations and only one locality showed reduced numbers associated with fishing. In addition this species is a strong colonizer and has established large populations in Hawaii after deliberate introduction from Moorea and the Marquesas (Randall 1987).

In a non-fishing area, the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea), adult C. argus (also C. miniata and C. hemistiktos) were experimental removed from their resident reefs. Within three years, limited recruitment was observed; replenished mainly by other predators of different taxa (Shpigel and Fishelson 1991b).

One of the most abundantly speared groupers in reef fisheries in Pohnpei (Rhodes and Tupper 2007).

The demography of this species is highly plastic and shows great variation over its distributional range especially in terms of maximum longevity, maximum size and the VBGF parameters.

See the Supplementary Material for Table 2: summary of C. argus demographic data (Pears 2005, Molea and Choat unpub. data).

Notable features of the population dynamics are shorter life spans, larger size and high K value for the Indian Ocean populations, the extended life span in GBR populations and the growth dynamics of the Hawaiian invasive populations. The Hawaii populations are closer to the dynamics of the Indian ocean populations than of their parent populations in Moorea and the Marquesas. The GBR populations also have distinctive dynamics.
For further information about this species, see 132781_Cephalopholis_argus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:General
Cephalopholis argus occurs in a variety of habitats, but is most commonly associated with exposed reef front habitats. Recorded to at least 40 m, but prefers 1 to 10 m depths. Cephalopholis argus causes ciguatera at some islands in the Pacific region, such as French Polynesia, Marshall Islands and Hawaii (Randall 1980, 1987; Hokama et al. 1994; Bruslé et al. 1998).

Social system, reproduction and growth
Peacock grouper occurs in social groups comprising of a single male and haremic females. Male territiory size is positively associated with fish size. Growth tends to be highly asymptotic (Pears 2005) and there is presently no evidence of rapid increase in size in males. In the Gulf of Aqaba, C. argus is found in social units comprising up to 12 adults, including one dominant male. Each group occupies a specific area (up to 2,000 m²) that is defended by the territorial male and subdivided into secondary territories, each inhabited by a single female (Shpigel and Fishelson 1991a). A similar social organization has been observed in Hawaii populations (Meyer 2004).

There is very little information available on the reproductive biology of this species. Behavioural studies (Shpigel and Fishelson 1991a, Meyer 2004) suggest that male C. argus defend large territories that incorporate smaller female territories as described for C. boenak (Lui and Sadovy 2005). Protogynous hermaphroditism has not confirmed for C. argus, although the testes remain primary-growth stage oocytes and have ovarian structure with a lumen and lamellae (Bruslé et al. 1998).

More detailed studies have implicated this species in ciguatera in the south Pacific (Bagnis 1968, Bagnis et al. 1979) and also in introduced populations in Hawaii (Dierking 2007) although demographic analyses carried out in this study indicated no impact on the fishes themselves. In some areas in the south Pacific fishing is restricted due to ciguatera. (R. Robertson pers. comm.). The very high densities recorded by Kulbicki from French Polynesia appear to reflect this.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): General
Cephalopholis argus is potentially threatened by overfishing.

Although abundant over most of its range, is subject to increasing fishery pressure in some regions. At three localities examined for landings of the distinctive species, the landings showed declines in the number of fish caught (Zeller 2006). The most dramatic was in the northern Mariana Islands where catches in a non-commercial fishery decline from 6 mt in 1952 to 1 mt in 2002. The Guam fishery was smaller and erratic but landings were also declining by 2001. For Samoa after a peak in the early 1990s the landings are now in steep decline. Localized protection is required at sites of heavy fishing as isolated populations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to larger vessels.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: General
Cephalopholis argus occurs in number of marine protected areas throughout its range.

The establishment of no-take reserves appears to have played a key role in maintaining the sustainability of the fishery. As an example, in 1995, five no-take fisheries reserves were established within the Nabq Natural Resource Protected Area (South Sinai, Egyptian Red Sea). The abundance and body size of C. argus (other two monitoring species are Lethrinus obsoletus and Variola louti) had increased in the reserves; the CPUE within the adjacent fished areas also increased during five-year monitoring (Galal et al. 2002).

Citation: Liu, M. & Choat JH. 2008. Cephalopholis argus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132781A3449833. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided