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.
Red grouper is available year-round with peak catches in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico occurring during the summer and fall. Red grouper flesh is white and lean with a notable lack of bones, and is very forgiving when cooked as it remains moist, firm, and has large flakes.
Red grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they all begin life as a female and eventually some may transform into males. Red grouper have large mouths with a slight under-bite, which allows them to eat their prey whole by dilating their gill covers and rapidly inhaling.
They also frequent areas with live bottom structures such as sponges, corals, and sea squirts. Red grouper act as “marine engineers” in their ecosystem by hollowing out flat-bottomed areas to create their home and attract mates.
This process provides habitat to other species such as spiny lobster, black grouper, red porgy, and vermilion snapper. Their grouper habitat utilization investigation looks at seasonal movement patterns in an attempt to improve populations and fishery management.
The If program allocates shares of the total commercial catch limit amongst individual fishers. Under the program, each fisher owns a share of the quota and can choose to fish it at anytime during the open season.
The Reef Fish FMP has been a success in allowing red grouper populations to bounce back from overfishing that had occurred on and off in the Gulf since the 1970s. They are fairly long-lived and come together to spawn in large numbers, characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure.
The Gulf of Mexico population in the was declared overfished in 2000 and then was rebuilt to target levels in 2007, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. The South Atlantic stock is no longer overfished, but a 2010 assessment showed it hasn’t been fully rebuilt.
Grouper fisheries have high impacts on nontarget species, the Monterey Bay Aquarium reported. Venting tools are also employed to make it easier for reef fish to survive when released.
In the United States, red grouper management measures include permits, annual catch limits, fishing quotas, marine protected areas that are closed to fishing, seasonal closures, gear restrictions, minimum size limits, and data reporting requirements. NOAA Fisheries has published a final rule that continues reductions in the Gulf of Mexico red grouper commercial and recreational annual catch limits and associated annual catch targets put in place through an emergency action requested by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
This action was taken based on information indicating the red grouper population may be declining and not large enough to sustain past harvest levels. FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER : 84 FR 52036, published October 1, 2019.
In 2017, Gulf of Mexico red grouper landings were the lowest they had been in recent years. Public testimony from Gulf of Mexico fishermen indicated they observed fewer legal-sized red grouper, suggesting a declining population An interim analysis conducted by NOAA Fisheries suggested a harvest reduction was needed.