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Epinephelus merra

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA ACTINOPTERYGII PERCIFORMES EPINEPHELIDAE

Scientific Name: Epinephelus merra
Species Authority: Bloch, 1793
Common Name(s):
English Honeycomb Grouper, Dwarf-spotted Grouper, Honeycomb Rock Cod, Wire-netted Reefcod, Wire-netting Cod, Honeycomb Cod
French Macabit, Loche Rayon De Miel, Merou A Treillis, Merou Gateua De Cire, Plat Gris, Vielle De Fond, Vielle Gris, Vielle Voleuse
Spanish Mero Panal
Synonym(s):
Cephalopholis merra (Bloch, 1793)
Ephinephelus merra Bloch, 1793
Epinephalus merra Bloch, 1793
Taxonomic Notes: E. merra is one of the ‘reticulated groupers’, which comprise nine shallow-water coral reef species (the other eight are: E. bilobatus, E. faveatus, E. hexagonatus, E. macrospilos, E. maculatus, E. melanostigma, E. quoyanus, E. spilotoceps) that have a rounded caudal fin and close-set dark brown spots with the pale interspaces forming a network on the body.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Liu, M. & Yeeting, B.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Justification:
Honeycomb grouper is listed as Least Concern because of its widespread distribution, abundance and presence within a number of marine protected areas within its range. Although it is heavily fished in some areas and occurs in the live reef food fish trade, it has an early maturation and is likely resilient to low-to moderate levels of fishing pressure outside of spawning aggregations. Some concern of targeting spawning aggregations within its range cause concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Epinephelus merra is one of the most widely distributed and common small groupers in the Indo-Pacific, occurring from South Africa to Pitcairn, excluding the Middle East, coastal India and Hawaii. North to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe Island. It is reported from the East China Sea (China) (Huang 1994). It also appears in the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and Exmouth, WA, Australia (Hoese et al. 2006), Howland Is., Baker Is., Jarvis Is., Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef (Bruce Mundy pers. comm.), Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Countries:
Native:
American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Comoros; Cook Islands; Fiji; French Polynesia; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Japan; Kenya; Kiribati; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Pitcairn; Réunion; Samoa; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: General
Epinephelus merra is abundant throughout its range.

Fisheries-dependent data
In Brunei (2004), underwater visual census showed (Andy Cornish, pers. comm.):

Abundance: 0.4/transect (5x50 m)
Biomass: 15.7 g/transect(5x50 m)

In Hong Kong wet markets, 95% of E. merra were immature and prices at HKD 51 to 64 per kg (Allen To pers. comm.). Honeycomb grouper are common in artisanal fisheries in the Pacific.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: General
Epinephelus merra is a reef-associated species with depth range 0 to 50 m, but mainly occurs in depths <20 m (Heemstra and Randall 1993). Honeycomb grouper are common in shallow lagoons and semi-protected seaward reefs. They may also be found in marginal coral reef habitats. Juveniles are common in thickets of staghorn Acropora corals. E. merra spends its entire life in one small area, having no significant movement from their home reef. Maximum body size is reported to be 26 cm SL (about 32 cm TL) (Heemstra and Randall 1993). Reports of ciguatera poisoning.

Reproduction
E. merra is protogynous hermaphroditic. Of 1,067 fish examined, the average size of females was 16 cm SL (largest female was 21 cm SL), and the average size of males was 20 cm SL (largest male was 25 cm SL) (Randall 1955).

Males were larger than females in Reunion and sex change occurred at 3 to 5 years old (Pothin et al. 2004).

At the Society Is., honeycomb grouper spawn between Jan and Apr for 3 to 4 days at the time of the full moon (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

At Okinawan waters, spawning season is between May and August with the peak of June, and spawn between the full moon and the last quarter moon. GSI of ripe females prior to spawning time (i.e. around the full moon) up to 13% (Lee et al. 2002).

At Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, the spawning season of E. merra was between March and April (Song et al. 2003).

At New Caledonia, spawning season from Sep. to Feb. with a peak of Nov. to Dec. and sex-ration of 1:3 (female:male); and at Tahiti, from Jan to April (Shapiro 1987).

Around Sesoko Island, Okinawa, mature fish of E. merra disappeared from their inhabited fringing reefs for a few days after the full moon and appeared again in the same areas. These combined with gonadal development during spawning season (above), the authors proposed that E. merra formed spawning aggregation outside of their inhabited reefs (Soyano et al. 2003).

Feeding
Honeycomb grouper feed on fishes and crustaceans, with increasing piscivory with age.

Growth, mortality and early life history
Honeycomb grouper has relatively high growth rate with k ranging from 0.43-0.8. Natural mortality was 0.9 to 1.67 (Pothin et al. 2004). The TL-SL relation is SL=0.75TL+26.84 (n=38, r=0.94) (Pothin et al. 2004).

Early life history was summarized by Sazaki et al. (1999) (see Table 1).

Follow the link below for Table 1.
For further information about this species, see 132788_Epinephelus_merra.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Epinephelus merra is of importance in artisanal fisheries because of its abundance in shallow water. It is caught with handlines, traps and spear (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

In Vietnam, E. merra is mainly cultured in Ha Long Bay and the central seas, and the juveniles are caught from wild (Tuan et al. 2000).

Commonly caught during gleaning at night (Pacific Islands) (Yeeting pers. comm.).

It is captured during spawning events in Micronesia (Rhodes pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Australia and in other areas within its range, Epinephelus merra is protected in marine reserves, but no other specific protective measures are known for the species.

Citation: Liu, M. & Yeeting, B. 2008. Epinephelus merra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 October 2014.
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