Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Epinephelus coioides
Species Authority: (Hamilton, 1822)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Orange-spotted Grouper, Estuary Cod
French Mérou Taches Oranges
Epinephelus suillus Valenciennes, 1828
Serranus nebulosus Valenciennes, 1828
Taxonomic Notes: Frequently mis-identified as E. malabaricus or E. tauvina in aquaculture and fisheries literature (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Cornish, A. & Harmelin-Vivien, M. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Cabanban, A. (Grouper & Wrasse Red List Authority)
The Orange-spotted Grouper is unlikely to become extinct as hatcheries in a number of countries are now able to produce fry from captive brood stock. However, there is only a limited supply of grouper seed for mariculture, and much current grouper mariculture is still based on the supply of wild-caught grouper seed (Sadovy 2000). This reliance on wild caught seed may actually remove groupers that might otherwise reproduce and supplement the wild stock (Sadovy 2000). Given that E. coioides is widely targeted across its global range as adults for food, and as juveniles in SE Asia for culture, it is unlikely that such heavy harvest on this grouper is sustainable in long term and wild populations of this grouper are likely being depleted. However, more information on catch volumes is needed, since trade volumes can reflect many things other than catch rates.

Epinephelus coioides is assessed as being Near Threatened because the overall decline of imports of plate-sized fish from SE Asia into Hong Kong (a major import center for live fish), extensive take of juveniles for international juvenile trade for mariculture grow out which is completely unregulated and documented, and large losses in mangroves in some of the largest countries in SE Asia, key habitat for young E. coioides from many areas of SE Asia.

This species also forms spawning aggregations (at least in some regions), and shows long life (maximum recorded 22 years, FishBase 2003), factors which are likely to increase its vulnerability to overexploitation. Spawning aggregations of groupers have consistently been shown to be easily overexploited as fishes from a large area will gather in a small place at the same time and place each year, making them attractive targets for fishers. It seems likely, that species of grouper that are sought after for food and that form spawning aggregations, will be more vulnerable to overfishing than those that are not targeted and do not.

For such a significant commercial species, little is known of its biology or catch rates – efforts need to be made to address both data gaps. See the Supplementary Material for a summary of the known information on abundance in the wild and in markets.
For further information about this species, see 44674_Epinephelus_coioides.pdf.
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Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Epinephelus coioides occurs in the Red Sea south to at least Durban (South Africa), eastwards to Palau and Fiji, north to the Ryukyu Islands (Japan), and south to the Arafura Sea and Australia (Heemstra and Randall 1993). It has also migrated through the Suez Canal to the eastern Mediterranean (Randall 1995). Its extent of occurrence and area of occupancy are unknown. This species is also frequently misidentified as E. malabaricus or E. tauvina in aquaculture and fisheries literature (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

A spawning aggregation of E. coioides has been reported from Papua New Guinea where 1,000 to 5,000 fish congregate in the muddy/sandy bottom of a large shallow bay for three to four days in every month of the year. At night, the fish sleep partially buried in the mud and have been targeted by local fishers for generations. Fish are speared from a canoe with a hand held spear at night using light lamp to locate them. Fishers report that 30 to 40 years ago they could take between 200 and 500 fish in a night, whereas today (2003) they catch between 50 and 100 fish in a night, a decline of 50% (Hamilton 2003).

E. coioides has also been reported to form mixed spawning aggregations with Epinephelus malabaricus in a bay in New Caledonia (M. Kulbicki, pers. comm.).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hong Kong; India (Andaman Is.); Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Japan (Nansei-shoto); Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Macao; Malaysia; Mozambique; Myanmar; Oman; Pakistan; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; United Arab Emirates; Viet Nam; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Mediterranean and Black Sea; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: E. coioides is so widely distributed that estimating overall population size, or changes in overall population size is near impossible. As a result little is known about the population. Minimum population doubling time is 1.4–4.4 years (FishBase 2003).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Adults are reef-associated (FishBase 2003) and are often found in brackish water (Randall et. al. 1997) over mud and rubble (Kailola et. al. 1993). Juveniles are common in estuaries over sand, mud and gravel and among mangroves (Kailola et. al. 1993).

Maximum age recorded is 22 years (FishBase 2003).

Females are mature at 25–30 cm total length (2–3 years old), sexual transition occurs at a length of 55–75 cm, and the major spawning period in the Persian Gulf is from March to June (Heemstra and Randal 1993). In the southern Arabian Gulf it is March to May (Grandcourt et. al. 2003). In New Caledonia spawning aggregations form in late October to early December (M. Kulbicki, pers. comm. 2004).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Overfishing and habitat destruction are the two most possible threats. Habitat destruction includes that of coral reefs (adult habitat) (Burke et. al. 2002, Hodgson and Liebeler 2002) and mangroves (juvenile habitat along with estuaries).

Significant decreases in mangrove area are known to have occurred in SE Asia. In Malaysia, 12% was lost from 1980 to 1990, in the Philippines mangroves have decreased by 60% (4,000 km² originally to 1,600 km² in 1997), in Viet Nam mangroves decreased by 38% (4,000 km² to 2,525 km² in 1997), while in Thailand the loss has been 54% (5,500 km² in 1961 to 2,470 km² in 1997) (Spalding et. al. 1997). These figures represent a loss of some 7,445 km² of mangroves (about 9 % of the SE Asian total) while other countries like Indonesia, which has the largest total area of mangrove habitat in the world (42, 550 km²) are also known to have suffered losses (Spalding et. al. 1997). Such destruction of important habitat will have undoubtedly reduced populations of E. coiodes.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Totally protected in New South Wales waters (Public Consultation Document 2002).

Tagged E. coioides are released on artificial reefs in Yan Chau Tong and Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park in 2001 as a part of restocking trial (these together with Red Snapper account for 15,000 fish released to-date) (Cheung 2001).

Mariculture of this grouper is carried out in SE Asia (Sadovy 2000). This fish is being cultured for local consumption in Thailand and for export using mainly seed supply from the wild (Yashiro 1996). This fish is also cultured in Singapore and Taiwan (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Under current Queensland (Australia) fishery regulation, E. coioides, whose length is less than 35 cm or more that 120 cm is protected (Fishing Industry Organization and Marketing Amendment Regulation 1993).

Citation: Cornish, A. & Harmelin-Vivien, M. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group). 2004. Epinephelus coioides. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T44674A10934751. . Downloaded on 26 November 2015.
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