Hyporthodus flavolimbatus 

Scope: Gulf of Mexico
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Hyporthodus flavolimbatus (Poey, 1865)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Yellowedge Grouper, Grouper, Poey's Grouper, White Grouper, Yellowfinned Grouper
French Merou Aile Jaune
Spanish Cherna Blanca, Mero, Mero Aleta Amarilla, Mero De Aletas Amarillas, Mero Extraviado
Epinephelus flavolimbatus Poey, 1865
Hyporthodus flavolimbatus (Poey, 1865)
Taxonomic Notes: A recent publication changed the generic name of this species to Hyporthodus (Craig and Hastings 2007) and a change of family name to Epinephelidae (Smith and Craig 2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-01-09
Assessor(s): Claro, R., Sedberry, G. & Zapp-Sluis, M.
Reviewer(s): Linardich, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Polidoro, B.
This species is widely distributed in the Gulf of Mexico where it occurs over deeper hard and soft bottoms near the shelf-edge. It is very long-lived (up to 85 years), spawns in small groups, must live over 15 years to contribute to spawning as both female and then male, and does not mature from females to males until 20 years of age. Generation length is estimated to be greater than 20 years. However, catch data is only available over the past 30 years or so in the Gulf. There has been a 50% decline in grouper landings and CPUE in Mexico over the past 30 years, however, this species represents 1% of the mixed-grouper and snapper catch. It is uncommon in Cuba, and is rare in fisheries. In the U.S. Gulf, landings have been relatively stable at around 450 tonnes since 1986. According to a 2009 stock assessment, this species was not considered overfished with overfishing not occurring. Bag limits and quotas are likely responsible for keeping U.S. catches relatively stable. Therefore, it is listed as Least Concern. Given its general biological characteristics, including longevity, formation of aggregations for spawning, and the high desirability (applicable to groupers in general) in regional fisheries, combined with a lack of effective management of multi-species fisheries in much of the region and pressure on such stocks predicted to increase, this species should be carefully monitored.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is distributed in the western Atlantic from North Carolina south along the U.S., throughout the Gulf of Mexico except Cuba, in the Caribbean Sea from Puerto Rico to Tobago and from Mexico to French Guiana, and off Brazil from 12°S to Rio Grande do Sul (R. Robertson pers. comm. 2014). It may occur in areas between French Guiana and central Brazil.
Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba; Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Barthélemy; 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; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):365
Upper depth limit (metres):90
Range Map:64400-25

Population [top]

Population:Gulf of Mexico
In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, this species is targeted by the commercial deepwater longline fishery which has been monitored since 1973. Catch landings and general biomass peaked in 1982 and then decreased rapidly until leveling off around 1993. Over the past 20 years, landings have been more or less stable. There are two main fleets, east and west, with the eastern fleet taking a higher amount of the total landings, however, the stock is managed as one unit. A 2011 stock assessment concluded that this species is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring, but that sensitivity runs show it to be on the boundaries of this definition. The review panel recommends further research into refining ageing data (SEDAR 2011).

Cass-Calay and Bahnick (2002) reported that in the Western Gulf of Mexico (WGOM), nominal CPUE was highest in 1992 at 0.160 lbs./hook and have averaged 0.087 lbs./hook since 1995. In the eastern Gulf (EGOM), nominal CPUE was less than 0.065 lbs./hook since 1990. They concluded that these results suggest a decline in longline CPUE for Hyporthodus flavolimbatus since the onset of commercial fishing for the species in the region. Cass-Calay and Bahnnick (2002) reported CPUE as variable; since 1992 CPUE declined in the Western Gulf of Mexico longline and Eastern Gulf of Mexico handline fisheries, while EGOM longline and WGOM handline CPUEs remained fairly constant.

Results from independent longline surveys off the coast of Louisiana conducted in 1984 and 1985 (Louisiana State University) to explore the economic potential of commercial longline fishing averaged 0.189 lbs/hook for Hyporthodus flavolimbatus in 1984 and 0.137 lbs./hook in 1985 (Cass-Calay and Banhick 2002). These estimates were obtained from fishing locations with positive catches and, therefore, do not represent absolute abundances. However, the catch results do reflect records of catch from a nearly unexploited stock in Louisiana in the mid-1980s (Bankston and Horst 1984).

An independent survey that has been conducted in the northern Gulf of Mexico since 1972, reported that relative abundance indices of Yellowedge Grouper significantly declined after 1985 (see Figure 6 pg 28) (Pollack and Ingram 2010). 

There has been a 50% decline in grouper landings and CPUE in Mexico over the past 30 years, and this species represents 1% of the mixed-grouper and snapper catch (Instituto de la Pesca 2010). This species is uncommon in Cuba, and is rare in fisheries. In the Gulf, landings since 1986 have been relatively stable at around 450 tonnes. In a 2009 stock assessment, this species is not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring. However, fishing of smaller individuals has led to 14% fewer males than in 1977-1980.
Global: Hyporthodus flavolimbatus has declined in abundance in many parts of its range, including the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Brazil. Its habitat has been fished by roller-rigged trawls, resulting in habitat destruction. Although abundance trends are lacking in many areas for this species and its catch is often pooled with other groupers, population trends for other more abundant species targeted by the same fisheries have shown drastic declines. Other species that co-occur in trawled, longlined, handlined and gillnet catches are considered overexploited (to the point of being critically endangered). Therefore, it can be inferred that Hyporthodus flavolimbatus populations have also decreased. As this species is associated with specific habitats, the population might be fragmented and subjected to extreme local declines, considering the long generation time of the species.Status
Ault et al. (1998) estimated that Yellowedge Grouper was overexploited in the Florida Keys. Musick et al. (2000) considered the status of US Atlantic populations of Yellowedge Grouper in the Gulf of Mexico uncertain. However, NMFS (2002) considers that this resource is not overfished in the area. According to NOAA Fisheries 2002 report to Congress on the status of US fisheries (NMFS 2003), Yellowedge Grouper is not considered to be overfished, based on the pre-SFA definition of that term. Under that definition, the stock is overfished when the SPR (spawner per recruit) falls below 30%. This stock is not considered to be experiencing overfishing, based on a post-SFA definition of the MFMT. Overfshing is defined as a fishing mortality rate in excess of that corresponding to a 30% Static SPR (NMFS 2003). The council is currently reviewing these status determinations criteria in Amendment 13B to the Snapper-Grouper fishery management plan (FMP).

Mendoza and Larez (2004) concluded that in Venezuela, a significant amount of catch and income had been forgone due to overfishing, based on maximum sustainable yield (MSY) estimates. They considered that a biomass recovery plan must be instituted to establish adequate stock levels and recover the economic potential of the fishery. Cass-Calay and Banhick (2002) estimated FMSY between 0.050 and 0.076 and concluded that appropriate fishing mortality for Yellowedge Grouper is quite low. MSY estimates ranged from 230 and 630 mt, indicating that commercial yield is already at is maximum (Cass-Calay and Banhick 2002).
Fishery independent data
During 1997 to 1998, several fishery independent (research) surveys were conducted along the southern Brazilian upper shelf and slope. Hyporthodus flavolimbatus was captured with horizontal and vertical longlines, and occurred from São Paulo (25°40´S) to Rio Grande do Sul (32°32 S), in moderately deep waters (100 to 199 m) with higher concentrations at Santa Catarina, around Florianópolis (26°37' to 27°42' S), Santa Catarina, from 120 to 135 m deep (Haimovici et al. 2004, REVIZEE-SCORE-SUL 1999, Haimovici pers. comm. 2007). It was commonly associated with flat mud bottoms ("plateau") near deep trenches. Hyporthodus flavolimbatus may be classified as a rare species (0.5 kg per 1,000 hooks per hour, and 0.7 to 1.4% of total catch, as kg) with a patchy distribution, and occurring at specific, rare habitats.

Fishery dependent data 
Commercial fishery data: Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is vulnerable to several types of bottom fishing gear, especially longlines and gillnets that target Snowy Grouper (H. niveatus) and tilefish (Lopholatilus villarii) (Olinto, A. pers comm. 2007). No directed fishery for Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is known from Brazil. Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is identified occasionally in bottom trawl commercial landings targeting angel sharks in depths from 80 to 150 m, over soft mud bottoms near rocky areas (M. Peres pers. comm. 2006).

The species is registered in commercial landings for São Paulo, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. State statistics generally group Epinephelus flavolimbatus (now recognised and referred to hereafter as Hyporthodus flavolimbatus) with other Epinephelus species, under the name "cherne" (grouper). For Rio Grande do Sul (IBAMA-CEPERG), "cherne" mainly includes Polyprion americanus, E. niveatus (now recognised and referred to hereafter as Hyporthodus niveatus) and other Epinephelus species, including H. flavolimbatus. For Santa Catarina (GEP-UNIVALI), fishery statistics display commercial landings for Hyporthodus flavolimbatus under "chene-galha-amarela", probably because the species is regionally important, but it may also be registered under the "cherne" category, together with P. americanus and H. niveatus. São Paulo state (Instituto de Pesca) also groups H. flavolimbatus with other Epinephelus species, under the name "cherne" (grouper).

Bottom longline and gillnet have dramatically increased in the last 10 years, with the development of the wreckfish P. americanus fishery off southern Brazil and the snowy grouper and tilefish fishery mainly off southeastern Brazil. All grouper annual landings severely decreased after the period 1996 to 2002 (Figures 1, 2 and 3). As a by-catch of such fisheries, H. flavolimbatus populations have presumably been impacted by the heavy fishing effort off south and southeastern Brazil. It is inferred that H. flavolimbatus population trends mirror those of P. americanus, H. niveatus and Lopholatilus villarii, which have drastically declined from heavy fishing pressure and are considered overexploited to critically endangered (Cornish and Peres 2003, Haimovici et al. 2004, BRASIL 2004, Avila-da-Silva and Haimovici 2005).

See the Supplementary Material for:

Figure 1: Grouper landings at Sao Paulo, Brazil (in kg) (1998-2005)

Figure 2: Grouper landings at Santa Catarina, Brazil (in kg) (2000-2006)

Figure 3: Grouper landings at Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (in kg) (1991-2005)

With the decrease in target species catch and abundance, some longliners have directed their catches to other grouper species, and may opportunistically hit some spawning and feeding aggregations. These may be reflected in the high seasonal landings from July to October (Peres pers. obs.).

Landings increased in the 1980s due to the development of longline fisheries for Hyporthodus flavolimbatus (over 70 m depth) and Red Grouper, Epinephelus morio, in the Caribbean. Bannerot et al. (1987) discussed the sustainability of these fisheries and mentioned that fisheries for yellowedge groupers ceased in the Gulf of Mexico because of sharp catch declines (Nelson, W., pers. comm., cited in Bannerot et al. 1987).

Snappers and groupers have been traditionally exploited on the continental shelf and slope off Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago by artisanal fishers (Mendoza and Larez 2004). The eastern Venezuelan snapper-grouper fishery is composed of medium range and long range handliners and longliners. The main species exploited by the medium range fishery are southern red snapper, Lutjanus purpureus, and Yellowedge Grouper, Hyporthodus flavolimbatus (Mendoza and Larez 1996). Hyporthodus flavolimbatus catch and effort increased more or less linearly between the years 1981 and 1991 when catches peaked at around 2400 t. Since then catch and effort have been declining and historic lows were registered in the last years of the series (Mendoza and Larez 2004).

Southeastern USA
Williams and Dixon (2003) reported landings from the Southeastern US headboat fishery for several deepwater species. Yellowedge Grouper landings declined five-fold during the past 20 years in both weight and abundance and 10-fold over 30 years relative to landings prior to 1981. CPUE by gear also dropped three-fold over the periods reported.

See the Supplementary Material for the following figures from preliminary analysis of headboat (recreational) surveys of some deepwater species (Williams, E.H. and Dixon, B., 31 October 2003, SEDAR4-DW-16):

Figure 4: Number and weight (mt) of landed deepwater species from the South Atlantic headboat fishery.

Figure 5: Catch per unit effort for Yellowedge Grouper using trips which caught at least one member of the deepwater complex.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:General
Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is a demersal, solitary species occurring in rocky areas and on sand mud bottom. On soft bottoms they are often seen in or near trenches or burrow-like excavations. It inhabits moderately deep waters, and is typically distributed from 90 to 365 m (Smith 1971). Unlike most groupers, which are associated with reefs and structure, yellowedge grouper can be found in a variety of habitats. Off Texas, they are often found over areas of flat bottom, near "lumps" associated with tilefish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps, and over rock ridge habitats (Roe 1976, Jones et al. 1989). In the Western Gulf of Mexico, Yellowedge Grouper have been observed inside burrows cut into soft sediment at depths of ~275 m. They have also been collected at the shelf edge on mud, sand or sand-shell bottom (Jones et al. 1989, Heemstra and Randall 1993). Juvenile Yellowedge Grouper are found inshore of the adult population, as shallow as 30 m (Smith 1971, NMFS SEAMAP surveys). In Southern and South Brazil this species is caught over areas of flat bottom, near "lumps" the so called "dirty floor". Juveniles are typically found shallower than adults (Cook et al. 2009).

Maximum reported size is 114 cm (45.3 in) TL (male), with a maximum weight of 18.6 kg (41 lbs) (Heemstra and Randall 1993); maximum length is 125 cm TL from Brazil (Haimovici et al. 2004).

This species is a protogynous hermaphrodite (Bullock et al. 1996). A study conducted by Bullock et al. (1996) in the Gulf of Mexico reported that 50% of fishes are mature at 22.4 in, and that 50% of females transform into males by the time they reach 81 cm TL or 22 years of age. Spawning occurs from April through October in the South Atlantic (Keener 1984, Manooch 1984, Parker and Mays 1998). Ripe females were found in the eastern Gulf of Mexico from May through September (Bullock et al. 1996).

See the Supplementary Material for Figure 6: Monthly mean gonadosomatic index values and sample sizes for mature females (A) and monthly mean diameter of the largest oocytes (B) of yellowedge grouper examined (1977-1980) from the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

A wide variety of invertebrates (mainly brachyuran crabs) and fishes comprise its diet (Bullock and Smith 1991, Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Age and growth
Manickchand-Heileman and Phillip (2000) report yellowedge grouper as old as 35 years off Trinidad and Tobago. However, a recent investigation in the Gulf of Mexico using carbon-14 validation indicates that yellowedge grouper may live as long as 85 years (Cook et al. 2009). Size and age at 50% maturity for females in the Gulf of Mexico were 547 mm TL and age 8 years (SEDAR 2011).

Early life history
The eggs and larvae of yellowedge grouper are pelagic and cannot be distinguished from larval snowy grouper, Hyporthodus niveatus (Cass-Calay and Bahnick 2002).
Generation Length (years):atleast10yrs

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This is one of the most important species of groupers in the deep-water longline fishery in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It is also of some importance in sport and commercial fisheries off the Southeastern coast of the USA (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The greatest threat to Hyporthodus flavolimbatus is heavy fishing effort, especially of the bottom longline and gillnet fisheries. Yellowedge Grouper are a long-lived, hermaphroditic species and relatively slow to mature, which increases their vulnerability to overfishing. However, U.S. catches are currently considered stable and not reaching levels of overfishing.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: USA
Informational Public Hearing Document On Marine Protected Areas To Be Included In Amendment 14 To The Fishery Management Plan For The Snapper Grouper Fishery Of The South Atlantic Region January 2004 South Atlantic Fishery Management Council [In consideration of the eight species in the deepwater snapper grouper complex: Speckled Hind (E. drummondhayi), Snowy Grouper (Hyporthodus niveatus), Warsaw Grouper (H. nigritus), Yellowedge Grouper, Misty Grouper (Hyporthodus mystacinus), Tilefish, Blueline Tilefish (Caulolatilis microps) and Sand Tilefish (Hoplolatilus chlupatyi)]. Regulations that apply to the entire snapper grouper FMU but affect deepwater species include a prohibition of trawls, traps and bottom longlines inside of 50 fathoms and North of St. Lucie Inlet, Florida and the commercial limited entry program in which two permits must be retired for one new vessel to enter the fishery.

Under Amendment 6/Environmental Assessment (SAFMC 1993), which was developed to rebuild the Snowy Grouper, Golden Tilefish, Speckled Hind, Warsaw Grouper, Misty Grouper, and Yellowedge Grouper resources: all deepwater species are included under an aggregate recreational bag limit in which recreational fishermen are limited to five groupers per person per day. Current regulations for deepwater snapper grouper species (SAFMC 2003) applied for Yellowedge Grouper included in five grouper aggregate bag limit limited access.

Citation: Claro, R., Sedberry, G. & Zapp-Sluis, M. 2015. Hyporthodus flavolimbatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T64400A70326073. . Downloaded on 26 February 2018.
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