Epinephelus areolatus 

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Epinephelus areolatus (Forsskål, 1775)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Areolate Grouper, Areolated Grouper, Areolate Rock Cod, Flat-tail Cod, Green-spotted Rock Cod, Grouper, Spotted Grouper, Squaretail Rockcod, Squaretail Rock Cod, Yellow-spotted Rockcod, Yellow-spotted Rock-cod
French Merou Areole, Vieille Maconde
Spanish Mero Areolado
Bodianus melanurus Geoffroy Saint-Hillaire, 1817
Epinephelus angularis (Valenciennes, 1828)
Epinephelus areolatus Forsskal, 1775
Epinephelus chlorostigma (non Valenciennes, 1828)
Epinephelus craspedurus Jordan & Richardson, 1910
Epinephelus waandersii Bleeker, 1859
Perca areolata Forsskal, 1775
Serranus celebicus Bleeker, 1851
Serranus glaucus Day, 1871
Serranus waandersii Bleeker, 1859

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Russell, B., Pollard, D., Cornish, A., Kulbicki, M., Yeeting, B. & Fennessy, S.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Epinephelus areolatus is a widespread species that is relatively common. However, in some areas (e.g., Hong Kong, mainland China) the species has shown notable declines directly related to fishing pressure, primarily trawling. Because this is not one of the major target species, in addition to the restrictions on trawling within many areas of its range, it is currently considered a Least Concern species.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:General
Epinephelus areolatus is a very widespread Indo-Pacific species that ranges from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to Natal (South Africa), east to Fiji, north to Japan, and south to the Arafura Sea (Russell and Houston 1989) and northern Australia. Recently it has been recorded from Tonga (Randall et al. 2003). Areolate grouper appears to be absent from Micronesia, Polynesia, and most islands of the western Indian Ocean (Randall and Heemstra 1991). It is often confused with Epinephelus chlorostigma.

Australia (Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia), Bahrain, Cambodia, China (Fujian, Guangdong, Guangdong–Hainan, Guangxi, Shanghai, Zhejiang), Cook Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Hong Kong, India (Andaman Island, Nicobar Island, Goa, Karaikal, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Mahé, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura), Indonesia (Bali, Java, Kalimantan, Lesser Sunda Islands, Moluccas, Papua, Sulawesi, Sumatra), Iraq, Iran, Israel, Japan (Kyushu, Ogasawara-shoto, Ryukyu Islands, Shikoku), Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak), Maldives, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea (Bismarck Archipelago North Solomons), Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal), Sri Lanka, Sudan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, and Yemen.
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Bahrain; Cambodia; China; Comoros; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; New Caledonia; Oman; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; United Arab Emirates; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):200
Upper depth limit (metres):2
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Epinephelus areolatus is widespread and reasonably common, relatively common in some areas, but details of its current population abundance are unknown. However, it is likely declining due to intensive fishing efforts over soft bottoms (i.e. trawling) throughout much of its range.

Fisheries-dependent data
Areolate grouper are reported catch from Saudi Arabia, but statistics do not indicate a decline (2000 to 2004) (

Epinephelus areolatus is one of the most common grouper species on soft bottoms in New Caledonia (8.0% of grouper catch). Experimental fishing within a 10 year interval resulted in a 50% decline in catch (IRD database). Reported mean size 30 to 35 cm TL, with a density of 0.013/100 m sq. in New Caledonia (SPC PROCFISH data 2005).

A once common species in Hong Kong, but now rare, as a result of intensive trawling (Sadovy and Cornish 2000).

Small-scale industrial and commercial line and trap catch (Mozambique) represents 0.5 to 1% of the total catch (unpub. Data: FRI-Maputo). Second-most commonly caught serranid captured in Djibouti commercial fisheries (Darar 1984).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:General
Epinephelus areolatus is found usually in turbid water in seagrass beds or silty sand bottoms around isolated small rock outcrops, dead coral or soft coral (Randall and Heemstra 1991) in shallow continental shelf waters (Leis 1987) in depths from 2 to 200 m (Randall and Ben-Tuvia 1983, IRD database). Juveniles are common at water depths to 80 m (Kailola et al. 1993).

Feed on fish and benthic invertebrates, primarily prawns and crabs (Kulbicki et al. 2005, Randall and Heemstra 1991, Parrish 1987, Salini et al. 1994).

Size and age
Maximum size is reported to be 47.0 cm TL, with a maximum weight of 1.4 kg (Moran et al. 1988). The maximum reported age for areolate grouper is 15 years (Shapiro 1987).

Areolate grouper probably spawns during restricted periods and forms aggregations when doing so (Shapiro 1987).
In New Caledonia, the sex ratio is reported as 1:6 males to females, with a size at maturity of females at 19.5 cm TL and 29 cm TL for males (IRD database).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): General
Epinephelus areolatus is subject to commercial and recreational fishing activities, including the live reef fish trade (Philippines) (Pratt et al. 2000, Padilla et al. 2003) and the marine aquarium fish trade, have the potential to adversely affect populations of this species.

A trawl species in N. Australia (Errity 2003) and forms part of by-catch of the Northern Prawn Fishery in Australia (Stobutzki et al. (2001). Reported catch (tonnes) for Saudi Arabia (FAO unpublished) for 2000 (306), 2001 (245), 2002 (289), 2003 (309), 2004 (349) does not indicate any decline in this fishery. Not significantly caught by handline but major component of serranid long-line catch in New Caledonia (Kulbicki et al. 2000). A 50% decline of catch in the experimental longline fishing in southern New Caledonia (IRD database).

One of the most common mariculture species in southern China SE Asia and the Middle East (Leung et al. 1999). Live reef fish import data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department (HK CSD) record the largest quantities of "other groupers" and "other marine fishes" as being imported from Thailand. Thailand and Malaysia are important sources for so-called "cultured" species including brown-spotted groupers Epinephelus areolatus / E. bleekeri, which are amongst 12 most commonly available species imported to Hong Kong ( Fingerlings are wild-caught in Vietnam and Thailand (Sadovy 2000) and no hatcheries are known for this species (Sadovy pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: General
Areolate grouper occurs in marine protected areas within its range.

Epinephelus areolatus is listed as ‘Least Concern’ in NT Australia. There is a 35 cm minimum size limit and bag limit five fish (mixed species) in Queensland Australia (Department of Primary Industries 2003).

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.2. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.5. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.6. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Muddy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.5. Inter-Reef Soft Substrate
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.9. Marine Neritic - Seagrass (Submerged)
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
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

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Establishing ex-situ production *

Bibliography [top]

Darar, A. 1994. An account of fisheries development in the Republic of Djibouti with notes on the growth and mortality of three species of groupers. Naga: ICLARM Quarterly Newsletter 17(2): 30-32.

Department of Primary Industries. 2003. Fisheries Act 1994 Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003, Regulatory Impact Statement for SL 2003 No. 212. Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Errity, C.M. 2003. A description of the Northern Territories finfish trawl fishery. Fishery Report. Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, Darwin, Australia.

IUCN. 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Johannes, R.E., Squire, L., Graham, T., Sadovy, Y., and Renguul, H. 1999. Spawning aggregations of groupers (Serranidae) in Palau. Marine Research Series Publication No.1. The Nature Conservancy .

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. and Grieve, C. 1993. Australian fisheries resources. Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra, Australia.

Kitalong, A. and Dalzell, P. 1994. A preliminary assessment of the status of inshore coral reef fish stocks in Palau. Inshore Fisheries Research Project, Technical Document No.6. South Pacific Commission.

Kulbicki, M., Bozec, Y.-M., Labrosse, P., Letourneur, Y., Mou-Tham, G. and Wantiez, L. 2005. Diet composition of carnivorous fishes from coral reef lagoons of New Caledonia. Aquatic and Living Resources 18: 231-250.

Kulbicki, M., Labrosse, P. and Letourneur, Y. 2000. Fish stock assessment of the northern New Caledonian lagoons: 2 – Stocks of lagoon bottom and reef-associated fishes. Aquatic and Living Resources 13(2): 77-90.

Leis, J.M. (ed.). 1987. Review of the early life history of tropical groupers (Serranidae) and snappers (Lutjanidae). In: Polovina, J.J. and Ralston, S. (eds), Tropical Snappers and Groupers. Biology and Fisheries Management, pp. 189-237. Westview Press, Boulder.

Leung, K.M.Y., Chu, J.C.W. and Wu, R.S.S. 1999. Effects of body weight, water temperature and ration size on ammonia excretion by the areolated grouper (Epinephelus areolatus) and mangrove snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus). Aquaculture 170(3): 215-227.

Moran, M., Jenke, J., Burton, C. and Clarke, D. 1988. The Western Australian trap and line fishery on the Northwest Shelf. Final Report. FIRTA Project 86/28. Western Australian Marine Research Laboratories.

Padilla, J.E., Mamauag, S., Braganza, G., Brucal, N., Yu, D. and Morales, A. 2003. Sustainability assessment of the live reef-fish for food industry in Palawan Philippines.

Parrish, J.D. 1987. The trophic biology of snappers and groupers. In: In: J.J. Polovina and S. Ralston (eds) (eds), Tropical Snappers and Groupers. Biology and Fisheries Management, pp. 405-463. Westview Press, Boulder, USA.

Pratt, V., Mamauag, S., Alban, J., Parfan, E. and Donaldson, T. 2000. Status Report on the Philippine Live Reef Fish Trade and Strategies to Combat its Destructive Fishing Practices. Report on the Status of Coral Reefs in the Philippines. Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines.

Randall, J.E. and Ben-Tuvia, A. 1983. A review of the groupers (Pisces: Serranidae: Epinephelinae) of the Red Sea, with description of a new species of Cephalopholis. Bulletin of Marine Science 33(2): 373-426.

Randall, J.E. and Heemstra, P.C. 1991. Revision of the Indo-Pacific groupers: (Perciformes: Serranidae: Epinephelinae): with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 20: 1-332.

Randall, J.E., Williams, J.T., Smith, D.G., Kulbicki, M., Tham, G.M., Labrosse, P., Kronen, M., Clua, E. and Mann, B.S. 2003. Checklist of the shore and epipelagic fishes of Tonga. Atoll Research Bulletin 502: 1-37.

Russell, B.C. and Houston, S. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. Beagle 6(1): 69-84.

Sadovy, Y. 2000. Regional survey for fry/fingerling supply and current practices for grouper mariculture: evaluating current status and long-term prospects for grouper mariculture in South East Asia.

Sadovy, Y. and Cornish, A.S. 2000. Reef Fishes of Hong Kong. Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong.

Salini, J.P., Blaber, S.J. and Brewer, D.T. 1994. Diets of trawled predatory fish of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, with particular reference to predation on prawns. Australian Journal of Freshwater Research 45(3): 397-411.

Shapiro, D.Y. 1987. Reproduction in groupers. In: J.J. Polovina and S. Ralston (eds), Tropical Snappers and Groupers. Biology and Fisheries Management, pp. 295-327. Westview Press, London.

Stobutzki, I., Miller, M. and Brewer, D. 2001. Sustainability of fishery bycatch: a process for assessing highly diverse and numerous bycatch. Environmental Conservation 28: 167-181.

Citation: Russell, B., Pollard, D., Cornish, A., Kulbicki, M., Yeeting, B. & Fennessy, S. 2008. Epinephelus areolatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132774A3447992. . Downloaded on 21 April 2018.
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