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Epinephelus morio

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA ACTINOPTERYGII PERCIFORMES EPINEPHELIDAE

Scientific Name: Epinephelus morio
Species Authority: (Valenciennes, 1828)
Common Name(s):
English Red Grouper
Spanish Mero Americano, Mero Guasa
French Mérou Rouge
Synonym(s):
Epinephelus morio (Valenciennes, 1828)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Assessor(s): Garcia-Moliner, G. & Eklund, A.-M. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Brule, T. (Grouper & Wrasse Red List Authority)
Justification:
Estimates based on population dynamics models indicate that Red Grouper stocks from northeastern and southern Gulf of Mexico are overfished and, despite some recoveries, that declines had been particularly marked in some areas.

U.S. commercial harvest for this species was estimated to about 16 million pounds in the 1950s and reached only 7.5 million pounds in 1989. Futhermore, the estimate of 1997 recreational landings was the lowest since 1981. Although the 2002 assessment found that the stock had improved by 2001, the SPR (Spawning Potential Ratio) was at less than 20% in the Gulf of Mexico in 2000 and stock status had not reached the level needed to produce maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis (BMSY).

Mexican and Cuban landings from the Campeche Bank showed a general decrease between 1976 and 1997 and 1990 and 1997, respectively. Studies indicated declines in biomass, capture and income and increases in fishing effort. Mexican commercial harvest was estimated at 20,000–90,000 mt in 1995, when the virgin stock biomass for this species was estimated to about 135,000–200,000 mt. Furthermore, grouper fishery regulations used in Mexican waters are less restrictive than those imposed in U.S. waters.(licence limitation, a closed season from February 15 to March 15 (2003) and from January 15 to February 15 (2004), and an annual catch quota of 1,200 mt for the Cuban fleet.

FAO landings figures for Brazil also showed a decline of 89% (mean annual figure for 1985–1994).

Follow the link below for a more detailed summary of catch information.

If improvement under management does not occur, then upgrading from Near Threatened to VU based on A2bd should be considered (those being the criteria which are nearly met).
For further information about this species, see 44681_Epinephelus_morio.pdf.
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Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Western Atlantic: North Carolina, USA to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Bermuda; strays north to Massachusetts (Heemstra and Randall, 1993). (Follow the link below to see a distribution map).
Countries:
Native:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The Red Grouper is a continental species only rarely caught in the West Indies. Major fisheries for this species are in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Moe 1969), Campeche Bank (Solis 1970), Isla Margarita (Cervigon 1966) and off Brazil (Stevenson 1981). It is the most abundant grouper (along with the Gag, Mycteroperca microlepis) in West Florida commercial catches (Bullock and Smith 1991); frequently caught in the Florida Middle Grounds, eastern Gulf of Mexico (Smith et al. 1975). Found, but not common, in Aruba. Not reported from Bonaire, Curacao, St. Martin, St. Eustatius, and Saba (Nagelkerken 1981). Rare in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Randall 1961) and Puerto Rico (G. Garcia-Moliner, pers. comm.).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Juveniles of 3 to 20 cm standard length are occasionally found on shallow seagrass beds and inshore reefs. Larger juveniles (20 to 40 cm standard length) are commonly found in crevices and under ledges on rocky reef bottoms in depth of 5 to 25 m. At 40 to 50 cm standard length and to 4 to 6 years of age, females become mature and begin to migrate to deeper water (50 to 300 m) where they also occur over sandy or mud bottom (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Maximum reported total length was 125 cm. Maximum age 25 years. The first observation of 100% mature female was made at fish age four and total length of 450–499 mm (five fish). The next observation of 100% maturity was made of fish age five and total length of 400–449 mm (two fish). The majority of Red Grouper observed in the fishery range from approximately age five to eight years. Size and age of sexual transition are 301–676 mm SL and 3–13 years respectively. The generation time of this species is estimated to be between 8 and 11 years. The species is a protogynous hermaphrodite and, although not demonstrated to be an aggregation spawner, may be caught in greater numbers during the reproductive season (Moe 1969, Arreguin-Sanchez and Pitcher 1999, Schirripa et al. 1999).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Overfishing is the main threat. All estimates, based on population dynamics models with implicit or explicit stock-recruitment relationships imposed, indicate that stocks are overfished in many areas.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In July 1985, Florida enacted an 18-inch (total length) minimum size for groupers. The Florida Marine Fisheries Commission set a State recreational bag limit of five groupers per person per day, with an off-the-water possession limit of ten per person, for any combination of groupers (NMFS and GMFMC 2003). Red Grouper landings by commercial fishermen increased slightly in that year. Length frequencies of Red Grouper sampled from the commercial harvest provide little evidence that the minimum size had any significant conservation effect on the commercial harvest. Commercial landings have shown a gradual decline since a current day peak in 1992 (Schirripa et al. 1999). For recreational harvest, available data suggest an initial decline from Florida State territorial seas after the 18-inch minimum size went into effect; however, the total recreational harvest was little affected by this regulation (Schirripa et al. 1999).

In 1990, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (GFMFC) established conservation measures for groupers, including a 20-inch minimum size and a 9.2 million pound (total weight) commercial quota for the shallow water groupers (which included Red Grouper) occurring in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico under GFMFC jurisdiction. The regulations accounted for, at least in part, a 70% decline in the recreational harvest by number and a 41% decline by weight from the average of the two preceding years. Commercial harvest declined by 21%t in 1990 from the two prior years. However, the decline could have been less than 15% if the fishery had not been closed before the quota had been reached (Schirripa et al. 1999). The quota was raised to 9.8 million pounds in 1992, after a Red Grouper stock assessment indicated that the Red Grouper Spawning Potential Ratio was substantially above the Council’s minimum target of 20%, and the Council concluded that the increased quota would not materially impinge on the long-term viability of the Red Grouper stock.

A regulatory amendment implemented in 2000 prohibited commercial sale of Red Grouper each year from February 15 to March 15, but has shown little if any reduction in fishing mortality of groupers: on the contrary, increased fishing effort has occurred in the weeks before and after the closed season (NMFS and GMFMC 2003).

Recently a ten year Red Grouper rebuilding plan to BMSY with a spawner-recruit steepness parameter of 0.7 has been proposed; the annual Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) during the first three year interval (2003–2005) is 6.56 million pounds gutted weight, approximately a 9.5% reduction from the average commercial and recreational harvest during 1999–2001. The ABC for subsequent year intervals will be set following a future stock assessment by a regulatory amendment or plan amendment. The recreational bag limit has been proposed to change to two Red Grouper out of the five aggregate grouper bag limit per person, with a double bag limit allowed for persons on qualified ‘for-hire’ boats that are over 24 hours. This proposed change is expected to achieve a reduction in recreational harvest of 9%. Other proposed scenarios include a shallow-water grouper possession (trip) limit at 5,200 pounds gutted weight, reducing commercial shallow-water grouper quota to 8.8 million pounds gutted weight, and repealing the closed season from February 15 to March 15 (NMFS and GMFMC 2003).

Red Grouper catch is managed in Yucatan, Mexico, where there is a minimum catch size of 30 cm TL; a quota of 1,200 mt per year for Cuban fleets since 1995 (Burgos and Defeo 2004); and a closed season from February 15 to March 15 during 2003 and from January 15 to February 15 during 2004 (DOF 2003, 2004). However, it is difficult to manage the fishery in Mexico because of different fleets there (Cuban and Mexican) (Arreguin-Sanchezet al. 1996, Moreno et al. 1996).

Citation: Garcia-Moliner, G. & Eklund, A.-M. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group) 2004. Epinephelus morio. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 19 December 2014.
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