Plectropomus leopardus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Plectropomus leopardus (Lacepède, 1802)
Common Name(s):
English Leopard Coral Grouper, Coral Trout, Leopard Coral Trout
French Saumonée Léopard
Spanish Mero Celestial
Plectropomus leopardus (Lacepède, 1802)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Cornish, A. & Kiwi, L.K. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Samoilys, M. (Grouper & Wrasse Red List Authority)
The Leopard Coral Grouper is declining on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Ayling et al. 2000), and this problem is further aggravated by the increasing harvest in that country. Other countries show declining landings, implying that populations may be decreasing. Although catches in eastern Australia have increased significantly, catch rates have decreased. The increasing trend observed in Philippines may be due to the lack of management and that juveniles are now caught and grown out; where heavily taken, the capture of P. leopardus is considered to be unsustainable (Padilla et al. 2003). Due to the declining trend of populations in different countries, the fish may be classified as Near Threatened and with more data may need to be reclassified as Vulnerable under criterion A2d. (See the Supplementary Material for a summary of regional status and catch data).
For further information about this species, see 44684_Plectropomus_leopardus.pdf.
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Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Plectropomus leopardus is found mainly in the western Pacific from southern Japan to Australia (Queensland and Western Australia), and eastward to the Caroline Islands and Fiji.

The species aggregates for spawning to form a group of around 60 to 130 in Australia (Samoilys 1997), 20 to 30 in eastern Malaysia (T. Daw pers. comm. 2003). Five spawning sites are known from Sabah, Malayasia (SCRFA 2003). Of these, four were still present in 2001/2002 while the fifth had disappeared reportedly due to destruction of the reef from cyanide fishing.

In Fiji, small groupings of the species are found regularly in certain seasons and the groupings tend to be somewhat dispersed particularly along the outer reef edge and well developed inner reefs. Fishers report that they tend to catch more of this fish when it has eggs (SCRFA 2003).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Brunei Darussalam; China; Fiji; Hong Kong; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; New Caledonia; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Tonga; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Population estimates by mark-capture data ranges from 1,890 to 2,134 fish for the reef area around Lizard Island (750,966 m²), equivalent to 2.6 fish 1,000 m², whereas it is about 3,988 (5.3 fish 1,000 m²) when estimated by Underwater Visual Census (Zeller and Russ 2000, Samoilys and Carlos 2001). On the Great Barrier Reef, P. leopardus is considered naturally common with densities ranging from 3.5 to 9.0 fish 1,000 m² (Ayling et al. 2000). In contrast the species is relatively uncommon in Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua Guinea (maximum densities of two fish 1,000 m², but generally less than one fish 1,000 m² (Samoilys et al. 1995).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Larvae are pelagic (Kailola et al. 1993); juveniles live in demersal shallow water in reef habitats, especially around coral rubble (Doherty et al. 1994), whereas adults inhabit coral reefs (Kailola et al. 1993).

Reproductive Biology
Estimates for average size at first reproduction of the fish ranges from 20–25 cm FL (Samoilys 2000) to 32–36 cm FL depending on differing histological criteria (Ferreira 1995). Aggregations occur around new moon (Samoilys 1997) or the full moon (J. Pet, pers. comm.: Komodo National Park, Indonesia) depending on location. In the Cairns area of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, aggregations are found from September to November (Samoilys 1997). An increase in fish density of up to 19 fold (maximum density: 75 fish/1,000 m²).can occur above the level recorded outside the aggregation period (average non-aggregation density: 6.5 fish/1,000 m²).

Aggregations occur around new moon from September to November (Samoilys 1997). An increase in fish density of up to 19 fold (maximum density: 75 fish/1,000 m²) can occur above the level recorded outside the aggregation period (average non-aggregation density: 6.5 fish/1,000 m². It is suggested that P. leopardus depends on aggregations sites on their home reef for reproductive activities (Zelle 1998).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Overfishing is probably the main threat to the species.

One major spawning aggregation of P. leopardus disappeared on the Great Barrier Reef probably due to targeted fishing (Samoilys et al. 2001). Catch rates have declined in several areas in the last decade, most notably after introduction of the live reef food fish trade.

In some areas in the Philippines, the species forms a single species fishery for the live reef fish export market. Catch and export figures reveal a fishery that was once large but has declined rapidly (43% over four years), average fish size has declined, catch rates appear low, and mortality estimates are high (Padilla et al. 2003). In addition, fisher surveys found that more fish were taken when they had eggs, and fish were noted by divers to be in clusters (SCRFA 2003); the fishery also targets immature fish when most mature size fish have gone and often grows out the immature fish to a larger, market, size in floating net pens – referred to as ‘mariculture’.

Aggregation sites are sometimes particularly targeted by fishers and enable elevated catch rates when fish are aggregated during reproduction.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation action is mainly taken in the Great Barrier Reef. The minimum legal size limit of 38 cm TL is implemented (QFMA 1999) to prevent recruitment overfishing. Three nine-day closures during October–December (timed to coincide with Coral Trout spawning) are in place for the protection of fish spawning aggregations in the Great Barrier Reef (Turnbull and Samoilys 1997, Russell 2003, fishery authority website given in citations).

Around 20% of the reefs of the GBR are closed to fishing, and this is set to increase (GBRMPA web site).

Although there are many marine parks in Japan, no protected areas exist to protect groupers (A. Nakazono, pers. comm., 2003).

Classifications [top]

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
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 -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. 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
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

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Adams, S., Mapstone, B.D., Russ, G.R. and Davies, C.R. 2000. Geographic variation in the sex ratio, sex specific size, and age structure of Plectropomus leopardus (Serranidae) between reefs open and closed to fishing on the Great Barrier Reef. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57: 1448-1458

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 2003. Australian Fisheries Statistics 2002. Canberra.

Ayling,T., Samoilys, M. and Ryan, D. 2000. Trends in common coral trout populations on the Great Barrier Reef. Information Series QI00063. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, Brisbane.

Davies, C.R. 2000. Inter-reef movement of the Common Coral Trout, Plectropomus leopardus. Research Publication No. 61, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Townsville, Australia. 50pp.

Ferreira, B.P. 1995. Reproduction of the common coral trout Plectropomus leopardus from the central and northern Great Barrier Reef. Bulletin of Marine Science 56(2): 653-669

IUCN. 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 23 November 2004).

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.

Mapstone, B.D., Choat, J.H. and Davies, C.R. 1996. A description of the commercial reef line fishery logbook data held by the Queensland Fisheries Management Authority. Report to the QFMA from the CRC Reef Research Centre and the Department of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia. 480 p.

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. WWF-Philippines. 109pp.

Queensland Fisheries Management Authority. 1999. Draft management plan and regulatory statement. Queensland coral reef fin fish fishery. Prepared by the Queensland Fisheries Management Authority with the Reef Fishery Management Advisory Committee.

Roff, D.A. 1992. The Evolution of Life Histories. Chapman and Hall, New York.

Russell, M. 2003. Reducing the impacts of fishing and tourism on fish spawning aggregations in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Proceedings of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 54: 681-688.

Sadovy, Y. 1998. A taste for live fish: Hong Kong’s live reef fish market. Naga, the ICLARM Quarterly 21(2):38-42.

Sadovy, Y. and Cornish, A.S. 2000. Reef Fishes of Hong Kong. Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong. 320 pp.

Samoilys, M.A. 1997. Periodicity of spawning aggregations of coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus (Pisces: Serranidae) on the northern Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series 160: 149-159.

Samoilys, M.A. 2000. Reproductive dynamics of an exploited serranid on the Great Barrier Reef. PhD thesis, James Cook University. 106 pp + Appendix.

Samoilys, M.A. and Carlos, G. 2000. Determining methods of underwater visual census for estimating the abundance of coral reef fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 57: 289-304.

Samoilys, M.A. and Donnelly, R.J. 1998. Effects of fishing spawning aggregations of tropical marine fishes: implications for management of the Live Reef Food Fish Trade in Solomon Islands. Discussion Paper No.5. Report to Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. ACIAR, Canberra. Project no. ANRE1/1998/094.

Samoilys, M.A., Fuentes, H., Tuwai, I., Tikomainiusiladi, B., Leqata, J., Mobiha, A., Potuku, T., Die, D., Wilson, M., Connell, S., Lincoln Smith, M. and Watson, R. 1995. Application of underwater visual census to assessing coral reef fish stocks in the tropical Pacific. Final Project PN9304 Report to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Samoilys, M. and Carlos, G. 1990. A Survey of Reef Fish Stocks in Western Samoa: Application of Underwater Visual Census Methods. FAO/UNDP SAM/89/002. Field Report No.6. A report prepared for the Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands and the Government of Samoa.

Samoilys, M.A., Squire, L. and Roelofs, A. 2001. Long term monitoring of coral trout spawning aggregations on the Great Barrier Reef: implications for fisheries management. Abstract. Indo-Pacific Fish Conference, Durban, May 2001.

State of Queensland. 2003. Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003 (2004 reprint). Online report (Accessed: 30 April 2004).

Tropical Research and Conservation Centre. 2000. Population declines of large fish stocks in Sabah, East Malaysia. Online report (Accessed: 28 July 2003).

Turnbull, C. 1996. Domestic reef fishing industry assessment. Report from Northern Fisheries Centre, Cairns. QDPI Information Series QI96106.14 p.

Turnbull, C.T. and Samoilys, M.A. 1997. Effectiveness of spawning closures in managing the line fishery on the Great Barrier Reef. Report to the Reef Fish Management Advisory Committee of QFMA. 24pp.

Werner, T.B. and Allen, G.R. 1998. Reef fishes of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. In: T.B. Werner and G.R. Allen (eds), A Rapid Marine Biodiversity Assessment of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea--Survey II (2000). Conservation International, Washington, USA.

Werner, T.B. and Allen, G.R. 2000. A rapid marine biodiversity assessment of the Calamianes Islands, Palawan province, Philippines. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 17. Conservation International, Washington, USA.

Zeller, D.C. 1998. Spawning aggregations: patterns of movement of the coral trout Plectropomus leopardus (Serranidae) as determined by ultrasonic telemetry. Marine Ecology 162: 253-263

Zeller, D.C. and Russ, G.R. 2000. Population estimates and size structure of Plectropomus leopardus (Pisces: Serranidae) in relation to no-fishing zones: mark-release-resighting and underwater visual census. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 221-8

Citation: Cornish, A. & Kiwi, L.K. (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group). 2004. Plectropomus leopardus. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T44684A10924940. . Downloaded on 23 May 2018.
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