Hyporthodus nigritus 

Scope: Global
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: 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)
Hyporthodus nigritus is primarily caught by hook and line and bottom longlines; the species is caught incidentally in the deepwater snapper/grouper fishery. The major threat to the Warsaw Grouper is mortality as a result of fishing or by-catch release mortality (due to barotraumas since it is deep-living).

Both recreational and commercial fisheries for Warsaw Grouper are currently regulated in the south Atlantic; the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council considers the species as overfished and undergoing overfishing (NMFS 2003). In the Gulf of Mexico commercial fishery, there are no possession limits for the species for federally permitted reef fish vessels, and the species is managed under the deep-water grouper commercial quota. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council classifies the status of Warsaw Grouper as "unknown".

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 the introduction of management, there continues to be killing of the species in bycatch which is unlikely to be reported. The designation of large marine protected areas is likely to be the most effective conservation measure for this species.

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 effective enough. A threatened category listing is warranted, given the intrinsic vulnerability of the species and the possibility that US waters hold much of the species. Despite a possible increase in landings, 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 listing as Critically Endangered is retained (a) because there is no good evidence of a change in condition since the last assessment was conducted; (b) there is no clear indication that management is being effective; and (c) a precautionary approach is being taken, given increasing fishing effort in offshore waters where the species occurs.
For further information about this species, see 7860_Hyporthodus_nigritus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species occurs in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, Trinidad, and as far south as Rio de Janeiro. 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 – northwest; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):525
Upper depth limit (metres):55
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No abundance population data have been reported for the species.

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).

Although Cuba is within the range of this species, no information on landings could be found and it was not mentioned in a Cuban context in the recent book by Claro et al. 2001 which discusses ecology and fisheries of marine fishes of Cuba. This strongly implies that the species is either not common, has always been insignificant in the fishery, or has been seriously depleted. However a spawning season for the species in Cuba was noted by Garcia-Cagide (1994) indicating a reproductive population in the area.

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).

The species is reported to have low resilience, with a minimum population doubling time of 4.5 - 14 years (Froese and Pauly 2005).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
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). The fish have their pelagic egg and larval stages pelagic offshore (Richards 1999, Parker and Mays 1998), juveniles can be found in nearshore areas, occasionally seen on jetties and shallow-water reefs (Heemstra and Randall 1993, Hardy 1978, Lavett Smith 1971). Adults are usually found on rough, rocky bottoms in depths of 55 to 525 m (FAO 1977, Heemstra and Randall 1993, Bullock and Smith 1991, Gutherz 1982).

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).

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.

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.).

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.7. Marine Neritic - Macroalgal/Kelp
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. pp. 378. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Bullock, L.H. and Smith, G.B. 1991. Seabasses (Pisces: Serranidae). Memoirs of the Hourglass Cruises, Volume VIII, Part II.

Claro, R., Lindeman, K.C. and Parenti, L.R. 2001. Ecology of the marine fishes of Cuba. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, USA.

Coleman, F.C. and Williams, S.L. 2002. Overexploiting marine ecosystem engineers: potential consequences for biodiversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17: 40-44.

Coleman, F.C., Baker, P. and Koenig, C.C. 2004. A review of Gulf of Mexico marine protected areas: successes, failures, and lessons learned. Fisheries 29: 10-21.

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.

FAO. 1977. FAO species identification sheets, fishing area 31 (W. Cent. Atlantic), no. Serran Epin 20. FAO, Rome.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2002. FAO yearbook. Fishery statistics: catches and landings. FAO, Rome, Italy.

Froese, R. and Pauly, D. (eds). 2005. FishBase version (11/2005). World Wide Web electronic publication. Search FishBase.

García-Cagide, A., Claro, R. and Koshelev, B.V. 1994. Reproducción. Ecología de los peces marinos de Cuba, pp. 187-262. Inst. Oceanol. Acad. Cienc. Cuba. and Cen. Invest. Quintana Roo (CIQRO), México.

GMFMC. 2003. Commercial Fishing Regulations for Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters. Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, Tampa, FL: 4.

Gutherz, E.J. 1982. Reef fish assessment, snapper/grouper stocks in the western north Atlantic south of Cape Hatteras, NC. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFC-80.

Hardy, J.D. 1978. Development of Fishes of the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Three Volumes. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services.

Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. 1993. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 16. Groupers of the world (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rockcod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis. No. 125, Vol. 16. Rome, FAO.

IUCN. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Lavett Smith, C. 1971. Revision of the American groupers: Epinephelus and allied genera. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 146(2).

Manooch III, C.S. and Mason, D.L. 1987. Age and Growth of the Warsaw Grouper and Black Grouper from the southeast region of the United States. Northeast Gulf Science 9(2): 65-75.

Mazurek, R. 2004. Seafood Watch, Seafood Report, Commercially Important Groupers of the Gulf of Mexico & South Atlantic Regions. Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Musick, J.A., Harbin, M.M., Berkeley, S.A., Burgess, G.H., Eklund, A.M., Findley, L., Gilmore, R.G., Golden, J.T., Ha, D.S., Huntsman, G.R., McGovern, J.C., Parker, S.J., Poss, S.G., Sala, E., Schmidt T.W., Sedberry, G.R., Weeks, H. and Wright, S.G. 2000. Marine, estuarine, and diadromous fish stocks at risk of extinction in North America (Exclusive of Pacific Salmonids). Fisheries 25(11): 6-30.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2003. Final Amendment 13A to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. Includes an Environmental Assessment, Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, Regulatory Impact Review and Social Impact Assessment/Fishery Impact Statement. National Marine Fisheries Service, Charleston, South Carolina.

Parker, R.O. and Mays, R.W. 1998. Southeastern U.S. deepwater reef fish assemblages, habitat characteristics, catches, and life history summaries. NOAA NMFS Technical Report 138: 1-41.

Richards, W.J. 1999. Preliminary guide to the identification of the early life history stages of serranid fishes of the western central Atlantic. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-419.

Robins, C.R. and Ray, G.C. 1986. A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, USA.

SAFMC. 2003. Commercial Fishing Regulations for South Atlantic Federal Waters. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Miami, FL: 4.

Citation: Ng Wai Chuen & Huntsman, G. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group). 2006. Hyporthodus nigritus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006: e.T7860A12857446. . Downloaded on 26 September 2017.
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