Hyporthodus nigritus 

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 nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Warsaw Grouper, Black Grouper, Black Grouper, Black Jewfish, Black Jewfish
French Mérou Polonaise, Mérou Varsovie
Spanish Fiat, Mero Negro
Epinephelus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)
Hyporthodus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)
Serranus nigritus Holbrook, 1855
Taxonomic Source(s): Craig, M.T. and Hastings, P.A. 2007. A molecular phylogeny of the groupers of the subfamily Epinephelinae (Serranidae) with a revised classification of the Epinephelini. Ichthyological Research 54(1): 1-17.
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: Near Threatened (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-01-09
Assessor(s): Cowan, J., Zapp-Sluis, M., Carpenter, K.E., Sedberry, G. & Claro, R.
Reviewer(s): Linardich, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Polidoro, B.
Hyporthodus nigritus is widely distributed in the Gulf of Mexico where it occurs over deep hard bottom near the shelf-edge. It is primarily caught by hook and line and bottom longlines and is caught incidentally in the deepwater snapper/grouper fishery where it suffers high mortality rates due to the effects of barotrauma. In the Gulf of Mexico commercial fishery, there are no possession limits and it is managed under the deep-water grouper commercial quota. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council classifies the status of Warsaw Grouper as "unknown". Despite the continuing poor knowledge about this species, there remains concern about its present and future status given that management action may be too little and not sufficiently effective. Although it is not heavily targeted, and landings over the past 40-50 years have been fluctuating but relatively stable in the Gulf, there is concern over the high mortality of this species when caught as by-catch. Furthermore, existing protected areas do not seem to be aiding its recovery. It is currently listed as a 'species of concern' by the United States. Since the 1990s, there has been a moratorium on fishing on this species in the South Atlantic, so currently, all reported landings are from the Gulf. Given that this species does not seem to be recovering in any part of it range, and concern exists over continued high mortality from by-catch, it is listed as Near Threatened conservation dependent in the Gulf of Mexico. Continued moratoriums, bag limits, and implementation of no-fishing zones to reduce by-catch is needed to aid in recovery of this species. Further species-specific information on its status off Mexico is needed.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species is distributed in the western Atlantic from Virginia south along the U.S., in the Gulf of Mexico from Cuba and the Florida Keys north along the Gulf coast to southern Texas and off Mexico from Tuxpan to Alacranes Reef, in the Caribbean from Cuba, Haiti, Barbados, western Honduras, and the Gulf of Venezuela, and off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Warsaw Grouper seem to be rare in the West Indies, with single records from Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad; this rarity and the apparent absence from the western Caribbean shelf may be due to the dearth of deep-water fishing in this area (Manooch and Mason 1987, Heemstra and Randall 1993, Robins and Ray 1996).
Countries occurrence:
Bahamas; Barbados; Brazil; Cayman Islands; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Haiti; Jamaica; Mexico; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – northwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):525
Upper depth limit (metres):55
Range Map:7860-25

Population [top]

Population:This species is generally rare in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also considered rare in Cuba, and there is no species-specific data, and is generally not present in fisheries as it is found in deeper waters. In the Gulf, this species is caught in commercial fisheries, and is mostly taken as by-catch in the Tilefish fishery. There is a commercial moratorium on this species in the Keys. In the Gulf, there is a 1 fish of 4 bag limit, and in the commercial fishery there is a 1.02 million pound quota.
Landings data are available from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the period from 1950 to 2003. Landings of H. nigritus were recorded in a few southeastern states of the US, including, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida (east and west coasts). Landings were variable over 40 years from 1950 to 1990, ranging from 56 to 162 metric tons; peaks occurred in 1952, '65, '81 and '88, while troughs were recorded around 1960, '80 and '84. The landings showed marked declines between 1995 and 1998 to 25 to 40 metric tons, but rose again to 114 metric tons in 2003. (For the landings figures see Table 1 in the attached PDF). 
By region (see Table 1 in the attached PDF), about 99% of Warsaw Grouper are caught in the Gulf of Mexico (Texas Louisiana, Alabama and Florida west coast). In terms of location, Florida west coast is the largest landing port in the US, responsible for about 68% of the total US landings from 1950 to 1985. However, the landings showed a decreasing trend in the Florida west coast since 1985, while the landings in Texas and Louisiana increased during the same period and took over the leading place in the 1990s. The change in trends of landings may indicate a shift in abundance around the area due to natural causes or because of a change in fishing practices. Further study on H. nigritus is needed to better understand stock trends.

According to the NOAA Fisheries' 2002 Report to Congress (NMFS 2003), the status of Warsaw Grouper Gulf of Mexico stock is unknown, and the status of the Atlantic stock is overfished with overfishing occurring. Long-term and short-term biomass trends for Warsaw Grouper are unknown (Mazurek 2004).  Populations of this species are more common within the Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve than in other shelf-edge habitats of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico (Koenig and Coleman 2013).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) capture fisheries data, but their records only recorded production of E. nigritus in the West Central Atlantic Fisheries Area (31), annual production ranged from 16 to 54 metric tons during the period from 1994 to 2000 (FAO 2002).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Hyporthodus nigritus is classified as a deep-water grouper; they inhabit reefs (such as deep Oculina reef areas and other growth-encrusted hard bottom) on the continental shelf break in waters 76-219 m deep (Manooch and Mason 1987). Its pelagic egg and larval stages are pelagic and offshore (Parker and Mays 1998, Richards 1999), juveniles can be found in nearshore areas, occasionally seen on jetties and shallow-water reefs (Lavett Smith 1971, Hardy 1978, Heemstra and Randall 1993). Adults are usually found on rough, rocky bottoms in depths of 55 to 525 m (FAO 1977, Gutherz 1982, Bullock and Smith 1991, Heemstra and Randall 1993). The Warsaw Grouper's large mouth enables it to engulf prey whole after capturing it in ambush or after a short chase. Diet items include crabs, shrimps and fishes.

The Warsaw Grouper is long-lived (up to 41 years) and has a slow growth rate (Manooch and Mason 1987, Musick et al. 2001). Maximum size is about 235 cm TL and about 200 kg.

Hyporthodus nigritus is a protogynous hermaphrodite, age of maturity occurs at nine years (Parker and Mays 1998, Musick et al. 2001). Spawning has been reported to occur around April and May in Cuba (García-Cagide 1994).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species supports commercial fisheries.

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 Warsaw Grouper and other deep-water species like it (Speckled Hind, 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 deepwater 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 Warsaw Grouper population is serious.

The limited dataset used to determine the status of the Atlantic stock, in the absence of a full stock assessment (M. Prager pers. comm.), indicates that the spawning potential ratios (SPR) for Warsaw Grouper in the Atlantic is between 6 and 14%, well below the threshold level indicating overfishing (NMFS 2003). There are no stock assessments for the Gulf of Mexico stock and none are planned in the immediate future.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Hyporthodus nigritus was listed as a "Candidate species" in 1997 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (United States), and was classified as a "Species of Concern" in April 2004 by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Both status assessments do not carry any procedural or substantive protections under the ESA.

According to the NOAA Fisheries' 2002 Report to Congress (NMFS 2003), the status of the Warsaw Grouper stock in Gulf of Mexico is unknown, and the status of the Atlantic stock is overfished with overfishing occurring.

Current commercial grouper regulations for the Gulf of Mexico include Warsaw Grouper - no minimum size; 726 mt overall deep-water grouper quota (GMFMC 2003).

Current commercial grouper regulations for the U.S. South Atlantic include Warsaw Grouper - one per vessel per trip; may not be sold or traded; no transfer at sea (SAFMC 2003).

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

There is strong evidence from the Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve that no-take zones in shelf edge habitats protect such deep-water species as this that are susceptible to capture-release mortality (Koenig and Coleman 2013).

Citation: Cowan, J., Zapp-Sluis, M., Carpenter, K.E., Sedberry, G. & Claro, R. 2015. Hyporthodus nigritus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T7860A70326886. . Downloaded on 18 March 2018.
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