Epinephelus drummondhayi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Epinephelus drummondhayi Goode & Bean, 1878
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Speckled Hind, Calico Grouper, Kitty Mitchell, Strawberry Grouper
French Mérou Grivelé
Spanish Mero Pintarroja

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2d+3d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Ng Wai Chuen & Huntsman, G. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Koenig, C. (Grouper & Wrasse Red List Authority)
E. drummondhayi is an important species in the recreational and commercial fisheries of the southeastern USA. Mainly caught with hook-and-line, but some might also be taken in traps, trawls and on bottom-set longlines.

The major threat to the Speckled Hind is mortality as a result of fishing or by-catch release mortality (due to barotraumas since it is a deepwater species). Both recreational and commercial fisheries for speckled hind are currently regulated in the south Atlantic; the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council considers the species to be overfished. In the Gulf of Mexico commercial fishery, there are no possession limits for the species for federally permitted reef fish vessels, and both species are managed under the deep-water grouper commercial quota. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council classifies the status of Speckled Hind as "unknown" (see NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources web site).

E. drummondhayi are caught as bycatch from the deepwater snapper/grouper fisheries off the coast of North Carolina through Texas. There is a paucity of data for this species: the stock structure is not characterized, population size is unknown and much of the life history of the species has not been investigated. The introduction of large marine protected areas is likely to be the most effective conservation measure for this species.

The status of the species is ambiguous. There is concern that even if the deeper parts of the range have healthy fish stocks, the shallow areas are much depleted. Despite management introduction, there continues to be continued killing of the species in bycatch which is unlikely to be reported. It appears to have largely disappeared from Bermuda.

Despite the continuing poor understanding of this species, there is considerable concern about its present and future status given that management action may be too little and not effective, and a threatened category listing is warranted, given the intrinsic vulnerability of the species and the possibility that US waters hold much of the species. Declines in the recent past have been extreme, fishing effort is not known and there is concern that much other fishing effort is moving offshore and will increasingly impact this species. Musick et al. (2001) considered the species to be endangered.

It is not clear whether this species fits better in the Endangered than Critically Endangered category. The classification of Critically Endangered is retained (a) because there is no good evidence of a change in condition since the last assessment was conducted; (b) the species continues to be taken as bycatch and is not protected from this by current regulations; (c) a precautionary approach is being taken; and (d) the species has a suite of life history characteristics that are often associated with higher extinction risk.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species occurs in the waters around Bermuda and along the coast of the USA from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and in the northern and eastern Gulf of Mexico. Reports of Speckled Hind from Cuba and the Bahamas are unsubstantiated (Heemstra and Randall 1993).
Countries occurrence:
Bermuda; Mexico; United States (Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Very little population data have been reported for the species.

In Bermuda the species is rare and probably not reproducing. Biologist and Bermuda Fisheries government officer Brian Luckhurst "examined and photographed two specimens in 1983 and that was the last time I have seen any specimens". "My view is that there is probably not a reproductively viable population here. We may occasionally get larvae coming in on Gulf Stream eddies but that is sporadic. Suffice it to say that the species is commercially extinct here and has been for at least 20 years" (B. Luckhurst pers. comm). Smith (1958) reported the species to be sporadically common in Bermuda at depths of 146–182 m, but now the species appears to be quite rare (Smith-Vaniz et al. 1999).

US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) data showed that the landings of E. drummondhayi have fluctuated. In southeastern USA, annual landings (recreational and commercial) declined to about 5 metric tons in the mid-1990s, then increased to about 18 metric tons, then dropped to just a few metric tons in 1995 (see Figure 2 in the Supplementary Material for a graph of these figures). More recent landings data have not been located (Parker and Mays 1998).

The landings reflected in the commercial landings for all US waters indicates a different trend, one showing overall increase from 1980 to 2004 (yearly landings from 1980 in metric tons: 0.7; 1.9; 5.3; 12.3; 14.8; 14.6; 12.7; 9.9; 8.7; 8.9; 9.8; 27.1; 30; 20.7; 29.4; 19.4; 17.5; 28.2; 23.2; 23.2; 29.7; 30.9; 23.3; 40.3; 47.4). (See the detailed table of commercial landings data for this species at

It is not known what trends in fishing effort have been associated with the reported landings, although there appears to be a movement of effort offshore (and into the areas where this species occurs) by both recreational and commercial sectors as part of moving fishing effort away from inshore waters. The declines and increases noted above could either reflect declines or increases in catch rates combined with a movement/change of fishing effort, or some combination of the two.

Personal observations by Dr. Gene Huntsman (cited in Musick et. al. 2001), a scientist familiar with the species and its fishing history suggested steady and drastic declines in abundance.

Low resilience, minimum population doubling time is 4.5 - 14 years (Froese and Pauly 2005).

A detailed analysis of size-frequency data and catch data in the Gulf of Mexico is needed to determine stock status in this location. The species appears to be depleted over its more shallow range and status in both deep and shallower areas needs to be determined.
For further information about this species, see 7854_Epinephelus_drummondhayi.pdf.
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Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:E. drummondhayi derive their common name (Speckled Hind) from the multitude of tiny white spots that cover their reddish-brown head, body and fins. Specked hinds are deep-water groupers, which have their pelagic egg and larval stages offshore (Richards 1999). Adults inhabit offshore rocky bottoms in depths of 25 to 183 m but are most common between 60 and 120 m (Bullock and Smith 1991, Heemstra and Randall 1993). Juveniles are more commonly found in shallower portions of the depth range (Ross 1988).

Speckled Hind are protogynous hermaphrodites (Brule et al. 2000); females mature at 4 or 5 years of age (45–60 cm TL), transition into males was estimated to occur at ages 7 to 14 (Brule et al. 2000).

Spawning occurs from April to May and July to September (Heemstra and Randall, 1993, Brule et al. 2000). No direct observation of spawning has been reported; spawning may occur at >70 m depth based on the catch of ripe individuals (Brule et al. 2000, Gilmore and Jones 1992).

Maximum size is about 110 cm TL and maximum weight is 30 kg (Matheson and Huntsman 1984, Bullock and Smith 1991, Heemstra and Randall 1993). Prey items, which can be engulfed whole, include fishes, crabs, shrimps lobsters and molluscs (see NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources web site).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): An immediate threat to this species is related to management of the commercial bottom long-line fishery of the southeastern US. The management trend has been to restrict such indiscriminate gear to deeper waters. If this management trend continues Speckled Hind and other deep-water species like it (Warsaw Grouper, Snowy Grouper, Yellowedge Grouper, and several species of tilefish) will experience an even greater impact than they do now because barotrauma (expansion of enclosed gases in the swimbladder (embolism)) results in hemorrhage and eventual death as these deep-water fish are brought to the surface (Coleman and Williams 2002, Coleman et al. 2004).

There is also a trend for the recreational fishery to operate in deeper water as shallower stocks become depleted. Even though there is a daily bag limit and trip limit for groupers, there are so many recreational fishermen (over 1 million saltwater licenses in Florida alone) that the potential impact on the already depleted Speckled Hind population is serious.

At the present time there are no stock assessments and none are planned.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: E. drummondhayi was listed as a "Candidate Species" in 1997 under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), and was classified as a "Species of Concern" in April 2004 by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (see: In either case the status does not carry any procedural or substantive protection under the ESA.

Status by Distinct Population Segment (DPS) US: Endangered, steady and drastic decline in abundance, males rare (G.R. Huntsman pers. obs.).

Citation: Ng Wai Chuen & Huntsman, G. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group). 2006. Epinephelus drummondhayi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006: e.T7854A12855084. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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