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Balistes vetula 

Scope:Global
Status_ne_offStatus_dd_offStatus_lc_offStatus_nt_onStatus_vu_offStatus_en_offStatus_cr_offStatus_ew_offStatus_ex_off

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Tetraodontiformes Balistidae

Scientific Name: Balistes vetula
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Queen Triggerfish, Old Wife, Triggerfish, Turbot, Ol'wife
Spanish Cachúa, Cach√∫a, Cach‚àö‚à´a, Cachuda, Cochino, Oldwife, Pejepuerco, Peje Puerco, Pejepuerco Cachuo, Pez Puerco, Puerco, Sol
French Baliste Royal, Bourse
Synonym(s):
Balistes bellus Walbaum, 1792
Balistes equestris Gronow, 1854
Balistes vetula subspecies trinitatis Nichols & Murphy, 1914
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. and Fricke, R. (eds). 2015. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 2 September 2015. Available at: http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/fishcatmain.asp. (Accessed: 2 September 2015).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2011-06-06
Assessor(s): Jing, L., Zapfe, G., Shao, K.-T., Leis, J.L., Matsuura, K., Hardy, G., Liu, M. & Tyler, J.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N.A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Carpenter, K.E., Comeros-Raynal, M., Harwell, H. & Sanciangco, J.
Justification:
Balistes vetula is widely distributed and inhabits a variety of habitats, including rocky bottoms, reefs, and shallow sandy or grassy areas. It is also an important commercial fish in Brazil with declines reported from 2001-2006. Due to similarities in size and habitat requirements, we infer B. vetula has similar life history characteristics as Balistes capriscus, therefore a generation length of 4-8 years was used for this assessment.

Population declines of up to 99% over about 20 years are reported in the Gulf of Guinea and up to 90% from 2001-2006 in parts of Brazil. We infer populations are also declining in West Africa and the Caribbean based on fisheries catches in those regions. Traditionally, the Queen Triggerfish has been underutilized by fisheries off the southeastern continental U.S.A., but it is more abundant in the Caribbean and comprises a considerable portion of reef fish landings in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Since a large part of its range occurs off northeastern North America, where fishing pressure is suspected to be lower, we infer that global population declines are less than, but likely approaching, what was recently observed for B. capriscus (31-32% over three generation lengths). It is therefore assessed as Near Threatened as it nearly meets the 30% reduction threshold for the VU category under criterion A2bd.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Vulnerable (VU)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Balistes vetula is widely distributed in the Atlantic. In the eastern Atlantic it is known from Ascension Island, the Cape Verde Islands, the Azores, and along West Africa from Morocco to southern Angola. In the western Atlantic it is known from Newfoundland (Canada) south along the U.S., Bermuda, the Bahamas, in the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Keys north to Tampa (Florida), on offshore banks/reefs in the northern Gulf, and off Mexico from Tuxpan along the Yucatan Peninsula, to Cuba, throughout the Caribbean Sea, and along South America to Cabo Frio, Brazil including Trinidade Island (Simon et al. 2013). Its depth range is 0-275 m.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Benin; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba; Brazil (Trindade); Cameroon; Canada; Cape Verde; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Equatorial Guinea; French Guiana; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Liberia; Martinique; Mauritania; Mexico; Montserrat; Morocco; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Panama; Portugal (Azores, Madeira); Puerto Rico; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (Ascension); Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Spain (Canary Is.); Suriname; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.; Western Sahara
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – eastern central
Lower depth limit (metres): 275
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Gulf of Mexico
Relatively little species-specific quantitative population data in the Gulf of Mexico are available to us at this time. It is taken in small numbers as bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery; it most frequently is taken by long-line, but also by hand-line (Scott-Denton et al. 2011). In deep-reef surveys in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, this species co-occurred with the commercially important B. capriscus (which was among the top 25 most abundant species) at deep reefs with live coral cover ranging in depths from 45-85 meters (Weaver et al. 2006). In the Campeche Bank, this species occurred in 3.3% of underwater visual censuses of reef areas (n=120: H. Pérez-España, unpublished data).

Southeast U.S.
Reef fish assemblage structure was assessed in 2006-2007 in Biscayne National Park, Florida, USA, and compared with data collected from 1977 to 1981. The percent frequency of occurrence from 1977 to 1981 was 3.5, while from 2006-2007 it was 0.0. This species is not targeted by fisheries in this region (Kellison et al. 2012).

Caribbean Sea
Traditionally, the Queen Triggerfish has been underutilized by fisheries off the southeastern continental U.S.A., but it is more abundant in the Caribbean and comprises a considerable portion of reef fish landings in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Although the species is taken by both traps and hook and line, 95% of all Queen Triggerfish landings from the U.S.Virgin Islands in 1983-1984 were taken in traps. The Queen Triggerfish comprises ~ 22% by weight of the total trap catch of the Islands and 10-15% of the total landings (Manooch and Drennon 1987). Traps in algal plains in the U.S. Virgin Islands contained the most fish, and 50% of censused B. vetula (Garrison et al. 2004).

In Jamaica, the highest catch rate was at the Pedro Cays between 11 to 20 m depth where it comprised nearly 60% of the total catch by number and 52.41% by weight. In general, this species comprised, by both number and weight, the most abundant of all species caught in traps at all parts of Pedro Bank. A very rough estimate of numerical CPUE in unexploited areas averaged in terms of depth zones amounts to 2,900 fishes/1,000 hexagonal trap-nights. If natural mortality rate is 2.6, the mean recruitment index, R, for Pedro Bank is about 7,500 fish (Aiken 1975).

Commercial catches from the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from approximately 90,000 to 130,000 lbs from 2000 to 2008. In Puerto Rico, commercial catches ranged from approximately 33,000 lbs to 122,000 lbs from 1988 to 2009, averaging 70,000 since 2000. It is taken as by-catch in commercial long-line and vertical line fisheries, and is a component of small-scale fisheries (Heyman et al. 2012). It is also harvested in recreational fisheries.

Brazil
In small villages of Brazil, parts of this fish are used in traditional medicine in the treatment of asthma, ear aches, and stroke victims. In Brazil, capture production for this species occurs in the states of Ceara and Espirito Santo, with the latter comprising the biggest national harvest at 4,225 tons/year. Fishery statistics report by IBAMA (Brazilian Environmental Agency) indicate a decrease in the national production between the years 2001 (7,774 tons/year) and 2006 (732 tons/year) (IBAMA 2006). Despite the decrease in landings, effort has increased by 25% in Espirito Santo and by 16.5% in Bahia State (Santos 2005). The exploitation rate estimated (0.56) for this study indicates that this species was under fishery pressure since the fishery exploitation coefficient was superior to what this population can stand, in spite of the fact that the growth parameters were bigger now than in previous studies done in the central region of Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010).

Eastern Atlantic
Triggerfish catch drastically declined from 18,610 tonnes in 1986 to two tonnes in 1995 in Ghanaian waters, and recent reports from CECAF capture production (FAO 2008) show that the annual catches of triggerfishes show two separate peaks between 1972 and 2003. The first peak (12,563 tons) occurred in 1979, and the second peak (17,250 tons) in 1986/87. Between 1979 and 1986/87, triggerfish catch fell to ‘regular or stable’ annual levels (5,000-8,000 tons/year). Catch sharply declined in 1988 to 2,862 tons. The continued decline indicates that inshore triggerfish catch generally increased with inshore effort (Aggrey-Fynn 2007). The triggerfish biomass was highest in 1985 and decreased afterwards up to 1991. The biomass decrease was quite significant from 1987-89 at virtually the same effort; and 1989-91 there was virtually no biomass of the triggerfish resource in Ghanaian coastal waters (Koranteng 1998, Aggrey-Fynn 2007).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is found over rocky bottoms and is often associated with reefs. It is also found on shallow sandy or grassy areas (Randall 1967) to the upper slope of the deep reef (100 m) (Aiken 1975). It forms schools but may also be observed solitary over sandy and grassy habitats. The Queen Triggerfish is found in depths from 2-275 m, however it is more commonly seen at 10-98 feet (3-30 m). It displays marked movement from the shallows to deeper water with increasing size (Aiken 1975). Diadema antillarum has been reported to be the primary prey item for this species, after mass mortality of the sea urchin in the Caribbean, crabs and chitons were recorded to replace the sea urchin (Reinthal et al. 1984). Prey items include macroalgae, bivalves, crabs, starfish, sea cucumbers, shrimp, and polychaetes. Male Queen Triggerfish establish territories of approximately 10 m in diameter, attracting several females. Nests are built in the sand by moving fins rapidly or creating a current by blowing water with the mouth near the bottom to create sand bowls. The eggs are released into these bowls after a courtship ritual. The nest is defended by the mating pair, reproduction occurs year-round, peaking in the fall and again in the winter. In Jamaica, fishes with ripe gonads were reported in February and May (Munro et al. 1973). Ripe fishes were collected all through the year except in April and June. Maxima of spawning were found between January and February and the period August to October. Most of the species specimens were small maturing individuals, suggesting movement into deeper water in maturation (Aiken 1975). There is indirect evidence of this species forming spawning aggregations from the Netherlands Antilles, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico (Hughes et al. 2013).

The maximum length: 60.0 cm (TL), (Randall 1968); mean length at 1st maturity: 23-27 cm (FL) (Aiken 1975); maximum age: 7 years (Manooch and Drennon 1987); 16 years in Central Brazil (Albuquerque et al. 2011). In Jamaica (Aiken 1975) size at 1st maturity (males): 17.5 cm (FL); size at 1st maturity (females): 16.5 cm (FL); size at full recruitment: 23-24 cm (FL).

In Brazil, growth parameters: L∞ = 50.4 cm, K = 0.76 (1/year). The natural mortality coefficient (M) = 1.15, while the fishery mortality coefficient (F) =1.49. The exploitation rate estimated (0.56) for this study indicate that this species was under fishery pressure since the fishery exploitation coefficient was superior to what this population can stand, in spite of the fact that the growth parameters were bigger now than in previous studies done in the central region of Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010). Maximum age determined by marginal increment analysis of dorsal spines off the Central Coast of Brazil was 16 years, with maximum fork length of 460 mm (Albuquerque et al. 2011).

The generation length for this species was based on that of Balistes capriscus, which was estimated at 4-8 years. Thus, the time window for calculating population declines is 12-24 years.
Systems: Marine
Generation Length (years): 4-8

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Balistes vetula is an important food fish in parts of its range (i.e., Brazil, Caribbean, Bermuda). It is primarily exploited by fisheries in the Caribbean, where catch data are limited. Catches are generally grouped to include all triggerfish and filefish (CFMC 2011), but most fishes in this group are Queen Triggerfish (CFMC 2005). It is taken as bycatch in commercial long-line and hand-line fisheries, and is also a component of small-scale fisheries (Heyman et al. 2012). It is also harvested in recreational fisheries. In small villages of Brazil, parts of this fish are used in traditional medicine in the treatment of asthma, earaches, and stroke victims. Although the species is taken by both traps and hook and line, 95% of all queen triggerfish landings from the U.S. Virgin Islands were taken in traps (Manooch and Drennon 1987). It is also a component of the aquarium trade with online prices ranging from $129.99-$149.99 depending on size.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is taken as bycatch in commercial long-line and vertical line fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. There is evidence of population declines from fishing observed in Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010). It has also been recorded in the diet of the invasive Lionfish, Pterois volitans (Bejarano et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Queen Triggerfish is managed under the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan within the filefish and triggerfish Fishery Management Unit (FMU) (Federal Register, Vol. 50, No. 167: 34850-34855) in the waters of the U.S. Caribbean, which includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Species-specific landings have only recently begun to be available. It is a component of Commercial and Recreational fisheries in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is impacted by management efforts impacting other fisheries, including seasonal area closures, closed areas, and seasonal closures for reef fishes as well as construction and mesh-size requirements for Spiny Lobster and Reef Fish Traps. According to NOAA’s Stock Sustainability Index the triggerfish and filefish Fishery Management Unit is not considered to be undergoing over-fishing and is not over-fished, therefore no rebuilding plan was designed. However, accurate estimates of stock abundance/biomass could not be developed due to data limitations (SEDAR 30 - U.S. Caribbean Queen Triggerfish Stock Assessment Report 2013).


Citation: Jing, L., Zapfe, G., Shao, K.-T., Leis, J.L., Matsuura, K., Hardy, G., Liu, M. & Tyler, J. 2015. Balistes vetula. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T2539A2787674. . Downloaded on 14 February 2016.
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