Grouper

Epinephelus spp.

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All applicable methods
Capture area — Worldwide (FAO All Areas)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail
Picture of Grouper

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The combination of facts for grouper are that they are: largely overfished; assessed as vulnerable to highly vulnerable to overfishing; not managed; and often caught with fishing methods detrimental to their vulnerable reef habitat, makes the species in general a fish to avoid. Some species in some areas may be fished sustainably, but MCS is currently unaware of any. Many species of grouper are now farmed, the sustainability of their production will inevitably vary. Only if the fish being farmed are bred from captive stock and do not rely on harvesting of juveniles in the wild, and responsible farming practices are used, including management of feed resources, can farmed grouper be considered more sustainable than wild-caught fish.

Biology

Groupers belong to a large group of fish known as Serranidae. They are an 'exotic' species, imported into the UK from countries including the Canary Islands, Seychelles, USA, the Middle and Far East and the tropics in general.

Stock information

Stock Area

All Areas

Stock information

Groupers belong to a large family of fish known as Serranidae. They are generally considered as 'exotic' fish as most are imported into the UK from countries including the Canary Islands, Seychelles, USA, the Middle and Far East and the tropics in general. Grouper are a territorial, mainly shallow water species, they exist at a high trophic level and many species form spawning aggregations where males and females aggregate in large numbers at often well-known locations. This makes them highly vulnerable to commercial fishing. Many species are overfished and assessed as Threatened to Critically endangered by IUCN - World Conservation Union. Almost all species are also sequential hermaphrodytes, changing from females to males at some point in their lifecycle. This makes them extremely vulnerable to overfishing, as the smaller the average size of the population, the less likely individuals are able to reach a balanced breeding population. ReefCheck has monitored the numbers of groupers (>30cm) since 1997, and for the vast majority of reefs, there are very low numbers of small-sized individual grouper. This is of huge importance for the ability of the population to recover.

Management

There are management plans for grouper in quite a number of parts of the world, especially for protection of spawning aggregations. Intense exploitation of aggregations can lead to local extirpation of species. In the context of managing fish spawning aggregations, this often means establishing seasonal or permanent no-take Areas over known aggregation sites. For example in Kubulau District, Bua Province, Fiji, communities have banned any grouper catch during the month of August. There are recent recommendations for minumum and maximum landing sizes (by species) in the Maldives that are being variously adopted by local grouper cage managers. There are also 5 statutory closed grouper spawning sites in the Maldives that have been set up in 2013. There are also size limits in quite a few countries to ensure grouper breed before they are fished. However, implementation of these plans can be challenging!

Capture Information

Grouper can be caught using almost any fishing method. Hook and line is widely used but cyanide is also widely used to capture grouper in some countries in SE Asia where there is a thriving live-fish trade. The use of this and other poisons kills other marine life and can degrade coral reefs. Grouper are also sometimes caught using explosives and nets, which are extremely damaging to the reef habitat.

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

http://www.icrs2012.com/proceedings/manuscripts/ICRS2012_19D_2.pdf; Dr E Wood (pers. comm)