Sparus aurata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Sparidae

Scientific Name: Sparus aurata Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Gilt-head Seabream, Silver Seabream, Snapper
French Daurade, Daurade Royale, Dorade, Dorade Royale
Spanish Chaparreta, Dorada, Dorada Del Pacífico, Dourada, Zapata Morisca
Aurata aurata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Chrysophrys aurata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Chrysophrys aurathus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Chrysophrys auratus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Chrysophrys crassirostris Valenciennes, 1830
Pagrus auratus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sparus auratus Linnaeus, 1758

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2009-08-19
Assessor(s): Russell, B., Carpenter, K.E. & Pollard, D.
Reviewer(s): Sedberry, G.
Contributor(s): Comeros-Raynal, M. & Gorman, C.

Sparus aurata
is common and abundant throughout most of its range. Although its overall population size in the Mediterranean may be increasing (probably because of mariculture escapees), the wild population may be seriously threatened with genetic pollution by these aquaculture escapees, and this aspect needs to be studied. In the interim, it has been assessed as Least Concern. We recommend continued monitoring of its population status and harvest levels.


In European waters, this species is widespread and abundant. the population of this species may be increasing in the Mediterranean; however, genetic pollution by aquaculture escapees may become a threat to this species. It is listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Sparus aurata is widely distributed in the eastern Atlantic and is known from southern Ireland to Mauritania, including the Canary Islands and possibly to Senegal (Fahy et al. 2005, Craig et al. 2008, Carpenter in prep.). It is present throughout the Mediterranean Sea and the western and southern Black Sea. The depth range for this species is from one to 150 m (Muus and Nielsen 1999). It has been introduced in the Madeira Islands through aquaculture (Alves and Alves 2002, Wirtz et al. 2008).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Denmark; France; Georgia; Gibraltar; Greece; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jordan; Lebanon; Libya; Malta; Mauritania; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Portugal; Romania; Senegal; Slovenia; Spain (Canary Is.); Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey; United Kingdom; Western Sahara
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – eastern central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):150
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Sparus aurata is a common and abundant species in the Mediterranean Sea, but relatively rare in the Black Sea. Catch statistics indicate a slow and steady increase for the Mediterranean from 1950 to the mid-1980s. Thereafter, there was a rapid increase from several hundred tonnes to over 90,000 tonnes. This increase in catch landings may be partly due to the wild capture of escapee fish from aquaculture sea cages, but most likely because the aquaculture production figures are not adequately separated from the wild caught fish catch figures in the Mediterranean fisheries statistics (D. Pollard pers. comm. 2009).

Sparus aurata is common outside sea-cage forms in the Turkish Aegean Sea feeding on the feed (pellets) and accounted for 0.7% of the total weight of one fish farm from 2004–2008 (Akyol and Ertosluk 2010).

Most aquaculture production (128,943 t in 2008 according to the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP)) occurs in the Mediterranean, with Greece (49%) being by far the largest producer in 2002. Turkey (15%), Spain (14%) and Italy (6%) are also major Mediterranean producers. In addition, considerable production occurs in Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia. There is also production of this species in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea. The main producer is Israel (3% of total production in 2002) while Kuwait and Oman are minor producers (Colloca and Cerasi 2009).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Sparus aurata is a coastal species, inhabiting seagrass beds, sandy bottoms, and the surf zone. It is commonly found at depths to about 30 m, but the adults may occur as deep as 150 m. Sparus aurata is a euryhaline species and enters brackish waters. This species has reduced home ranges and shows site fidelity when displaced (Abecassis and Erzini 2008)  and may be solitary or form small aggregations. It is mainly carnivorous, feeding on molluscs, particularly mussels which it can easily crush, crustaceans and fish, though it is accessorily herbivorous (Carpenter in press). 

This is a protandrous hermaphrodite. Sexual maturity develops in males at two years of age (20–30 cm) and in females at two to three years (33–40 cm). Females are batch spawners and an lay 20,000–80,000 eggs every day for a period up to four months. In captivity, sex change is conditioned by social and hormonal factors (Colloca and Cerasi 2009). Spawning generally occurs from October to December, with sequenced spawning during the whole period. Incubation of the eggs lasts about two days at 16–17°C, and the larval stage lasts about 50 days at 17.5°C or about 43 days at 20°C. Egg size is 0.9–1.1 mm and larval length at hatching is 2.5–3.0 mm.

The parameters of the Von Bertalanffy growth equation for this species are: Linf = 55.33 cm, K = 0.513, t0 = - 0.282 (Chaoui et al. 2006); Linf = 62 cm, K = 0.221, t0 = - 0.774 (Lasserre and Labourg 1974); and Linf = 59.76 cm, K = 0.153, t0 = - 0.711 (Kraljevic and Dulcic 1997). The allometric coefficient of the length-weight relationship is 3.06 (Chaoui et al. 2006); 2.88 (Lasserre and Labourg 1974); and 3.05 (Kraljevic and Dulcic 1997). The maximum recorded length for this species is 70 cm (Fischer et al. 1987), and its longevity is to 12 years (Kraljevic and Dulcic 1997).


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Sparus aurata is a very important commercial species and it is also one of the most important fishes used for aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea. The richest fishing grounds are located between 36°N to 21°N, the species being less common further south and around the Canary Islands. It is fished most intensively from February to October and is caught on line gear, with trammel nets, bottom trawls, beach seines and traps. This species is marketed fresh or frozen (its flesh is highly esteemed) and is also used for fishmeal and oil (Carpenter, in press). It is an important sport fish and is regularly present in the markets throughout the Mediterranean region. It is also a targeted recreational species, mostly by spearfishing (Jouvenel and Pollard 2001). This species is also used in ocean cage aquaculture in Madeira which started in 1997 (Alves and Alves 2002).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): One of the major threats to this species is localized declines from fishing. This is a very important commercial species, and it is also one of the most important fishes used for aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea. There may also be a problem here with genetic pollution of the wild stocks through interbreeding with the numerous artificially bred and selected aquaculture escapee fish, as appears to be the case with Dicentrarchus labrax (D. Pollard pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place for S. aurata. This species occurs in some marine protected areas within its range (World Database of Protected Areas, accessed 11 March 2014). Studies should be undertaken to determine if aquaculture specimens are genetically polluting the wild stocks. The wild catch figures should also be separated from the aquaculture production in the fisheries statistics for this region. As this species relies very heavily on estuarine lagoons as nursery grounds, these habitats need to be preserved for this species to survive.

Citation: Russell, B., Carpenter, K.E. & Pollard, D. 2014. Sparus aurata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T170253A1302459. . Downloaded on 17 July 2018.
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