Cromileptes altivelis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Cromileptes altivelis (Valenciennes, 1828)
Common Name(s):
English Humpback Grouper, Baramundi Cod, Barramundi Cod, Barrimundi Cod, Flatfish Grouper, Highfinned Grouper, Hump-back Rock-cod, Humpback Rockcod, Humpback Seabass, Loche Truite, Pantherfish, Panther Grouper
French Grissette, Loche Voile, Merou Bossu
Spanish Mero Jorobado
Cromileptes altivelis (Valenciennes, 1828)
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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Sadovy, Y., Thierry, C., Choat, J.H. & Cabanban, A.S.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
C. altivelis is listed as Vulnerable because of inferred population declines from: (1) its natural rarity; (2) the increasing rate of harvesting, which is driven by its high value in the live food fish trade; (3) the noted declines in imports into demand locations; (4) extensive habitat degradation in key areas of its range, particularly Southeast Asia; and (5) declining abundance from visual census in its natural habitat. Hatchery production is not intended for re-introduction, but instead for the aquarium trade and is, therefore, not resulting in an increase in the natural population or a decrease in demand in the fish food trade.

C. altivelis is thought to be at risk in many areas and this species can be hatchery-raised (Sadovy et al., 2003). However, slow growth rates mean that hatchery-produced fish are used for the aquarium trade and not the live reef food fish trade. Therefore, hatchery production is not thought to relieve fishing pressure on wild populations.

In Southeast Asia this species is heavily exploited due to its high market value and its habitat is being degraded; it is in Southeast Asia that the humpback grouper is largely distributed. This is one of the most highly valued species in the live reef fish trade and annually many tonnes enter the centre of this trade (Hong Kong), mainly from Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. Abundance or size estimates from the main capture areas are urgently needed since there is a very real concern for the future status of the species in the exporting countries. More complete age structure and reproduction data is also required. Such information gathering should be a priority in future action plans.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Cromileptes altivelis can be found in the western Pacific from southern Japan (Ogasawara) to Palau, Guam, New Caledonia, Fiji and southern Queensland (Australia). One report from western Indian Ocean (Kenya) has not been confirmed. Records from Hawaii are probably based on released aquarium fish (Heemstra and Randall 1993).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Cambodia; China; Guam; India; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Micronesia, Federated States of ; New Caledonia; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Vanuatu; Viet Nam
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Cromileptes altivelis is naturally uncommon over most of its range. The species is a favored target species within the live reef fish trade and is, therefore, likely experiencing population declines in areas where the trade operates; it is reported to be increasingly harder to find for import into live reef food fish trade markets.

Individuals are recorded more commonly from sheltered versus exposed sites. Divers and spearfishers typically record greater abundances from inner shelf reefs. Individuals are often encountered in pairs although small aggregations of three to six individuals have been recorded at some sites. It is not known if these small groups are reproductive.

Global and regional abundance of Cromileptes altivelis is virtually unknown from both fishery dependent and independent data. Several underwater visual censuses suggested that this species is rare in nature (CRC 2001, Halford and Russell 2001, Allen 2003, Halford 2003, Sabetian 2003).

Fishery-independent Data
Underwater visual census is the main tool for estimating its abundance in the wild. Currently, no coordinated or comprehensive stock assessment has been done on Cromileptes altivelis in the region. Existing data has been sporadically collected and assessments have not used standardized methodologies, making population trend analysis using fisheries-independent data problematic.

Additional Abundance Data: Pears (2005)
Due to the highly cryptic nature of this species standard UVC data for Cromileptes altivelis are suspect. Pears (2005) estimated abundance of this and other cryptic serranids using a special search protocol. The resultant estimates confirm the observations of survey divers that this species is rare and patchily distributed in reef habitats.

Individuals (+/- SD) per 1,000 m² on mid shelf reefs at four regions on the GBR in a north/south gradient:

Lizard I. 0.2 (0.04)
Townsville 0.1 (0.02)
McKay 0.3 (0.09)
Pompey 0 (0)

Partitioning of reefs into exposed and sheltered sites at these four localities:

Sheltered sites
Lizard I. 0.08 (0.01)
Townsville 0.2 (0.08)
McKay 0.5 (0.05)
Pompey 0 (0)

Exposed sites
Lizard I. 0.2 (0.08)
Townsville 0 (0)
McKay 0.3 (0.09)
Pompey 0 (0)

Abundance estimates of Cromileptes altivelis from New Caledonia were 0.063 individuals/1000 sq. m and is consistent with other localities in terms of the extreme rarity of this species (IRD database).

Fishery-independent data by country
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
According to underwater visual census and video-recordings in early 2001, counts of Cromileptes altivelis indicated that they were relatively rare on mid- and outer-shelf reefs (CRC 2001).

Bali, Indonesia
From 28th April to 5th May 2001, no Cromileptes altivelis was observed during a 80-hour underwater visual survey in 60 sites using SCUBA (depth up to 45 m) in Sangihe-Talud (Halford and Russell 2001).

Papua, Indonesia
From 30th October to 22nd November 2002, only five Cromileptes altivelis were observed in 57 sites in 70 hours of underwater visual survey using SCUBA (depth up to 52 m) in the Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia (Allen 2003).

Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia
In May 2003, no C. altivelis were observed during a 14-day 50-hour underwater visual survey in 33 sites (depth up to 40 to 45 m) in the Wakatobi islands group (Halford 2003).

Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands
Underwater visual census (2x100 m transect at depths 10 and 20 m) estimated the density of Cromileptes altivelis at < 0.5 fish/m² (Sabetian 2003).

In New Caledonia, the population of Cromileptes altivelis appears to be decreasing (Kulbicki pers. comm.).

Fishery-dependent Data
The landing and export volumes of Cromileptes altivelis in the region are lacking or incomplete. For example, official figures from Indonesia only cover all groupers as a whole, without differentiating the statistics into different species. However, import figures from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong SAR Government since 1997 provides useful information on the harvesting of Cromileptes altivelis.

Fishery-dependent data by country
Papua New Guinea (PNG)
From February to April 1998, only three Cromileptes altivelis (6 kg) were exported from PNG, comprising 0.02% of all live reef fish exported (0.05% by weight) (Lokani and Kibikibi 1999).

Demography and population dynamics
Davies et al. (2006) aged 199 of a sample of 228 individuals from the GBR. Samples ranged in size from 350 to 710 mm FL and between 1 and 19 years of age. The median age distribution was 6 to 7 years and strongly skewed to younger individuals.

Growth parameters
Tmax was 19 years with L max 610 mm FL, Linf 738 mm FL, K 0.08 , Z 0.28.
Linear growth was relatively rapid with FL of ~ 410 mm being achieved in five years. Demographic analysis was compromised by the absence of small individuals in the samples.

Davies et al. (2006) identify Cromileptes altivelis as a protogynous hermaphrodite, although in the absence of histological data and analysis of gonads of small individuals; thus, protogyny cannot be confirmed. Males were present in the population as young as four years of age with the proportion of males showing a gradual increase with 50% male representation occurring at 8.2 years of age. However a number of sexually transitional individuals between six and ten years of age were recorded. Sexual maturity was estimated to occur at two years of age and 330 mm FL. A more comprehensive analysis of the pattern of sexual ontogeny must await increased sampling of smaller individuals.

Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT)
Cromileptes altivelis is considered to be a high-valued principal LRFFT species (Sadovy et al. 2003).

In Hong Kong, the wholesale price of Cromileptes altivelis in 1999 was about US$64 per kg (Chan 2000). In July 2003, the wholesale and retail prices averaged US$ 62 and $110 per kg (unpublished data from the International Marinelife Alliance Hong Kong 2003).

According to Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department declaration forms, the volume (kg) of Cromileptes altivelis imported into Hong Kong decreased from 14.4 metric tonnes (mt) (valued at > US$ 460,000) to 4.4 mt (>US$ 131,000) in 2000. The second peak occurred in 2002 (11.9 mt, US$ 402,000) and then declined again to 1.5 mt (Cromileptes altivelis into Hong Kong.

Combining the figures of the imports of C. altivelis from the Census and Statistics Department and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (which collects data from fish traders on a voluntary basis), more than 133 mt (valued at US$ 9.95 million) of C. altivelis were imported into Hong Kong. The lowest quantity of <8.8 mt (< US$ 0.4 million) was observed in 2003, probably due to the poor sale performance of the catering industry during/after the outbreak of the SARS.

See the supplementary material for Tables 1 and 2, showing the volume (kg) and value (US$) of Cromileptes altivelis imported into Hong Kong from 1997 to September 2005 (Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong SAR Government).
For further information about this species, see 39774_Cromileptes_altivelis.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:General
The species is found in lagoons and seaward well developed coral reefs, typically in dead or silty areas. It also occurs in tide pools and can be caught at depths of 40 m (Heemstra and Randall 1993). Juveniles (<15 cm) are found inshore, in lagoons and in fringing reefs and seagrass. Recorded maximum size is 70 cm TL (Heemstra and Randall 1993). Preliminary data suggests a maximum age of at least 14 years (Davies et al. 1999). Feeds on small fishes and crustaceans (Myers 1999).

Cromileptes altivelis is a protogynous hermaphrodite (Gardner et al. 2005) and matures at 39 cm TL (Lau and Li 2000). Spawning aggregations are not known, although spawning activities were observed in captivity. Cromileptes altivelis can spawn many times within a reproductive season (Ou et al. 1999b). There has been one anecdotal report of a spawning aggregation formation from northern Papua New Guinea (Sadovy pers. comm.).

Natural (without hormonal treatment) spawning activities in floating cages among 15 males and 24 females (in 2 cages) were observed in Komodo, Indonesia over a period from October 2000 to July 2003. Cromileptes altivelis spawned in pairs between 2100h to midnight, and occurred from the 3rd quarter to the 1st quarter of the moon. Cage spawning was observed to last for at least 8 consecutive days (Sudaryanto et al. 2004).

Induced gonad development by hormone injection of a female (380 mm TL, 1.5kg) and a male (405 mm TL, 2kg) under experimental conditions spawned 390,000 eggs, in which 40,000 were fertilized. The majority of the hatched fry had abnormal morphology and died after 30 hours (Ou et al. 1999b)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: C. altivelis is consumed as food, and juveniles are popular aquarium fish fetching a high price (Randall and Heemstra 1993, Ou et al. 1999a).

There are many studies of spawning in captivity, hatchery, and rearing of juvenile and adult C. altivelis. A plentiful supply of the fry is available for aquaculture by commercial hatcheries in Indonesia. It was found that fingerlings prefer protein to that of lipid as a dietary energy source (Williams et al. 2004).

In Australia, the Department of Primary Industries Northern Fisheries Centre, Cairns, and the Department of Business Industry and Resources Development’s Darwin Aquaculture Centre hold wild-caught mature C. altivelis in captivity for the purposes of research into spawning and larval rearing. Their objectives are stated as being to supply the demand for live reef fish to Asian countries so as to lessen the fishing pressure on natural stocks of reef fish in Australia (Bowater et al. 2003).

In Indonesia, about one million and more than three million juveniles (4-5 cm TL) were produced by hatcheries in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In 2003, two government, seven commercial and more than 100 farmer backyard hatcheries were actively producing juveniles (Sugama et al. 2003).

Humpback Grouper has been produced from three Fisheries Marine Culture Research Centre at Gondol (Bali), Situbondo and Tanjung Putus (Lampung) in Indonesia. In 2002, Tanjung Putus, Lampung produced 33 tonnes of humpback grouper with a total product value Rp 8.5 billion (about US$ 929 million). In 2003, 67 ton of humpback grouper, valued at Rp 16.9 billion (about US$ 1.85 billion) had been produced (Abdullah Habibi, Director of Taka Foundation, pers. comm. on 16th Jan 2006).

It was estimated that the annual production of C. altivelis seedstock (5-10 cm TL) from Indonesia hatcheries were 697,800 and 1,050,420 individuals in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Some of the juveniles produced from hatcheries are sold to the international aquarium fish market (Rimmer et al. 2005); Rimmer et al. (2005) also stated that there is one hatchery in northern Queensland that has produced numbers of C. altivelis.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): General
In Southeast Asia, C. altivelis is heavily exploited and its habitat is being degraded.

Live reef fish trade
Juveniles are taken for the aquarium trade, sometimes using cyanide (Min pers. comm.), while adults are highly prized in the live reef fish trade centered in Southeast Asia. Individuals are taken in quite high numbers according to general observations and anecdotal information (Lee and Sadovy 1998) at about 40-70 cm (Lau and Parry-Jones 1999). The live fish fishery for this species operated in Queensland from 1995 (Elmer 1998) to 2003, but is now closed. The grouper's geographic distribution lies almost exclusively within an area of considerable exploitation for this species and where its habitat is likely to be subject to damage (Cesar et al. 1997). Humpback groupers are among the more important (by volume) species imported into the major live food fish centre (Hong Kong) and come principally from Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

Continued high prices in Hong Kong will inevitably lead to localised depletions. Further pressures are likely to be placed on this species in other parts of its range (e.g. Australia or other Southeast Asian countries), once Indonesian populations are reduced. The live reef fish trade is a potential threat to the survival of the species, particularly in Southeast Asia where it is heavily targeted.

There is an illegal trade of the species (and other live reef food fish) from the Philippines through Malaysia (Cabanban pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Measures by Country
In Indonesia, about 1 million and more than 3 million juveniles (4-5 cm TL) were produced by hatcheries in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In 2003, 2 government, 7 commercial and more than 100 farmer backyard hatcheries were actively producing juveniles (Sugama et al. 2003). Hatchery-produced fish are used exclusively for the grow-out industry and aquarium trade.

C. altivelis is listed as a protected species under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Regulations 1983 – Reg 29 (accessed on 18th Jan 2006).

C. altivelis is also listed as Lower Risk (conservation dependent) in Australia (see Conservation Status of Australian Fishes - 2001; accessed on 18th Jan 2006). According to Division 3, Part 2 of Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003 (Reprint No. 2), taking or possessing of C. altivelis in Queensland is prohibited by both state (Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland) and federal (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) agencies (Queensland Fisheries Act 1994: Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003; accessed on 18th Jan 2006). However, it is permissible to take small numbers under permit for aquaculture (broodstock) purposes under the approvals from both the state and federal governments (Mike Rimmer, Northern Fisheries Centre of Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, PO Box 5396, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia. pers. comm. on 25th Jan 06).

Papua New Guinea
The minimum size limit for exporting C. altivelis is 40 cm TL (Live Reef Fish Food Trade (LRFFT) in Papua New Guinea; accessed on 19th Jan 2006).

Listed as an Endangered Species in Vanuatu (Endangered Species in Vanuatu; accessed on 19 Jan 2006).

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.1. Outer Reef Channel
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.3. Foreslope (Outer Reef Slope)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.4. Lagoon
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.6. Marine Intertidal - Tidepools
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.1. Habitat shifting & alteration
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

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

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
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.3. Harvest & Trade Management Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

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

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

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Bowater, R.O., Thomas, A., Shivas, R.G. and Humphrey, J.D. 2003. Deuteromycotic fungi infecting barramundi cod, Cromileptes altivelis (Valenciennes), from Australia. Journal of Fish Diseases 26(11-12): 681-686.

Cesar, H., Lundin, C., Bettencourt, S. and Dixon, J. 1997. Indonesian coral reefs: An economic analysis of a precious but threatened resource. Ambio 6(6): 345-350.

Chan, P. 2000. The industry perspective: wholesale and retail marketing aspects of the Hong Kong live reef food fish trade. SPC Live Reef Fish Information Bulletin 7: 3-7.

CRC. 2001. Annual Report 2000-2001. CRC Reef Research Centre.

Davies, C.R., Choat, J.H., Samoilys, M., Mapstone, B.M., Benzie, J. and Russ, G.R. 1999. Stock structure and regional variation in population dynamics of the Red Throat Emperor and other target species of the Queensland Tropical Reef Line Fishery. Progress report for FRDC Project 98-13.

Davies, C.R., Williams, A.J., Mapstone, B.D., Benzie, J., van Herwerden, L., Choat, J.H., Adams, S., Murchie, C.D., Bean, K., Carlos, G., Tobin, A., and Ackerman, J. 2006. Stock structure and regional variation in population dynamics of the Red Throat Emperor and other target species of the Queensland Tropical Reef Line Fishery. CRC Reef Research Centre Technical Report No. 61. CRC Reef Research Centre, Townsville.

Elmer, M. 1998. The facts on the live reef fish debate. Queensland Fisheries News 2: 4-5.

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Habibi, A. 2006. Director, Taka Foundation. Hong Kong.

Halford, A. 2004. Fish diversity and distribution. In: Pet-Soede, L. and Erdmann, M. (eds), Rapid Ecological Assessment Wakatobi National Park November 2003. WWF Indonesia Marine Program, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

Halford, A. and Russell, B. 2001. Fish Biodiversity. In: Mous, P.J. and DeVantier, L.M. (eds), Report on a Rapid Ecological Assessment of the Sangihe-Talaud Islands, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, April 24 - May 24, 2001. The Nature Conservancy, Coastal and Marine Program.

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

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Ou, Y.J., Li, J.E. and Chen, F.H. 1999. Diagnostic and biological features of high finned grouper (Cromileptes altivelis Valenciennes). Journal of Fishery Sciences of China 1: 24-26.

Ou, Y.J., Li, J.E. and Chen, F.H. 1999. Introduction, acclimation and induction of gonad development and reproduction of high finned grouper. Journal of Zhanjiang Ocean University 3: 20-23.

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Citation: Sadovy, Y., Thierry, C., Choat, J.H. & Cabanban, A.S. 2008. Cromileptes altivelis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T39774A10264681. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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