They engulf prey whole by opening their large mouths, dilating their gill covers, rapidly drawing in a current of water, and inhaling the food. Large sharks and carnivorous marine mammals prey on adult red grouper.
Red grouper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil. Annual catch limits are used for red grouper in the commercial and recreational fisheries.
These fisheries are closed when their annual catch limit is projected to be met. Both the commercial and recreational fisheries have size limits to reduce harvest of immature red grouper.
The commercial and recreational fishing seasons are closed from January through April to protect red grouper during their peak spawning period. To reduce by catch, there are restrictions on the type of gear fishermen may use and where they can fish.
Year-round and/or seasonal area closures for commercial and recreational sectors to protect spawning groupers. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council requested 2019 commercial and recreational annual catch limits be reduced to a level equal to the combined 2017 commercial and recreational landings based on information indicating the red grouper population is not large enough to sustain current harvest levels.
See the table below for Acts and ACTs/quota in millions of pounds gutted weight for the commercial (Comm) and recreational (Rec) sectors. NOAA Fisheries, in coordination with the Gulf Council, is working on regulations to continue these reductions past 2019.
Annual Catch Limit is the amount of fish that can be harvested from the population each year. An interim analysis conducted by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and reviewed by the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee suggested a harvest reduction was needed.
In 2017, Gulf of Mexico red grouper landings were the lowest they had been in recent years. Public testimony from Gulf fishermen indicated they observed fewer legal-sized red grouper, suggesting a declining stock.
The 2018 red grouper commercial quota was 7.78 million pounds gutted weight. If NOAA Fisheries had not withheld that portion of the commercial quota, then the entire 7.78 million pounds would have been allocated to If fishermen and that allocation could not be taken back once the commercial catch limit reduction requested by the Council is finalized.
Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Performed Family: Serranidae Subfamily: Epinephrine Genus: Epimetheus Species: Binomial name Epimetheus Mario Synonyms Serra nus Mario Valentines, 1828 Serra nus erythrogaster Delay, 1842 Serra nus lurid us Tanzania, 1842 Serra nus remotes Play, 1860 Serra nus angustifrons Standalone, 1864 The red grouper has a body with a standard length which is 2.6 to 3 times as long as it is deep.
The properly is subangular with the serrations at its angle being slightly enlarged and the upper edge of the gill cover is straight. The They are dark reddish brown on the upper part of the head and body, shading to paler pink on the underparts, they are marked with lighter spots and blotches across their body and there are darker margins to the fins.
This species has a maximum published total length of 125 centimeters (49 in), although they a more commonly found at lengths around 50 centimeters (20 in), and a maximum published weight of 23 kilograms (51 lb). The redgrouper's typical range is coastal areas in the western Atlantic, stretching from southern Brazil to North Carolina in the US and including the Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda.
Spawning occurs offshore between January and June, peaking in May. While primarily eating benthic invertebrates, the red grouper is an opportunistic feeder in the reef community.
The diet commonly includes mantid and portend crabs, juvenile spiny lobster, and snapping shrimp, with the occasional fish. The red grouper is of moderate size, about 125 cm and weighs 23 kg or more.
When aggravated (they are highly territorial) or involved in spawning activities, these fish can very rapidly change coloration patterns, with the head or other parts of the body turning completely white, and the white spots appearing more intense. Red grouper (Epimetheus Mario) on an excavated site on Pulley Ridges on the West Florida Shelf Red grouper actively excavate pits in the seafloor.
They start digging in the sediment from the time they settle out of the plankton and continue throughout their lifetime. They use their caudal fin and their mouths to remove debris and sediment from rocks, creating exposed surfaces on which sessile organisms actively settle (e.g., sponges, soft corals, algae).
The exposure of structure also attracts a myriad of other species, including mobile invertebrates and a remarkable diversity of other fishes, from bodies and butterfly fish to grunts and snapper. The lionfish Steroid Holsteins started invading red grouper habitat by 2008, from Florida Bay to the Florida Keys and offshore to Pulley Ridge, a despotic coral reef on the West Florida Shelf west of the Dry Tortugas.
Known for being extremely capable predators on small reef fish, scientists are very interested in determining the extent to which their invasion changes the functional dynamics of associated communities. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Epimetheus Mario.
“Helming parasites of Epimetheus Mario (Pisces: Serranidae) of the Yucatán Peninsula, southeastern Mexico” (PDF). The majority of media and political attention is focused on red snapper, but there are several other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico that are of commercial and recreational importance.
Thanks to successful management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, red snapper populations are rebounding and their range is expanding. On a regional level, any time the commercial sector does not land its quota, political pressures begin to ramp up from radical recreational fishing lobbying groups who push for reallocating commercial fishing quota and gifting it to recreational fishermen.
Why would these radical groups push for more lax management and reallocation when even recreational fishermen in the Gulf could only catch 35% of their quota in 2017? Solving the problem of a declining of red grouper population is not going to be an easy task, but I have confidence that our collaboration between industry, scientists, and managers, together with the best-available science mandated by Magnuson-Stevens, can successfully recover the red grouper fishery.
Paul Lough ridge is a commercial fisherman and owner of four boats out of Crystal River, Florida. He’s been fishing for over 25 years, starting with grouper and snapper, then expanding into stone crab.