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Gulf Grouper (Mycteroperca jordani)

Status

ESA Endangered - throughout its range

Species Description

Weight:
up to 200 pounds (91 kg)
Length:
up to 4.9 feet (150 cm)
Appearance:
large, heavy-bodied grouper that is dark brown to grey in coloration
Lifespan:
up to 48 years
Diet:
large fish and crustaceans
Behavior:
protogynous hermaphroditic fish that aggregate spawns
Due to their biology, gulf groupers are maladapted to fishery pressures. First, they are a long lived (48 years), late maturing fish (six years as a female). Second, they are protogynous hermaphroditic, so they mature as females and later transition into males. The older, larger males are selected for at harvest, which skews gulf grouper sex ratios. Third, gulf grouper spawn at aggregation sites. Once a year, they aggregate for reproduction at a known time (full moon in May), at known locations (reefs and seamounts), at higher than normal densities, and at an adult size rendering them highly susceptible to direct harvest.

Habitat

Juvenile grouper use shallow, coastal habitats (e.g. sargassum beds, seagrass areas, mangroves, and estuaries) during their first two years of life.  Afterwards, gulf grouper predominately use rocky reefs, seamounts, and kelp beds of depths from five to 30 meters and deeper (30 to 45 m) during the summer months.  During their spawning season, gulf groupers will aggregate in rocky reefs and seamounts in depths from 20 to 35 m.

Distribution

Gulf grouper reside in the Gulf of California and the subtropical eastern Pacific Ocean from La Jolla, California (United States) to Mazatlán, Sinaloa (Mexico).

Population Trends

The gulf grouper was once considered abundant, but they are now considered rare.  Presently, abundance levels are believed to be less than 1% of their historical levels.

Threats

Current threats include:

Conservation Efforts

There are no conservation efforts specific to the gulf grouper.  Over the past 15 years, multiple Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) have been established; but overall protection of fisheries resources has not improved due to the lack of proper regulations, management plans, and necessary resources to effectively allow fish stock recovery.

Regulatory Overview

On July 15, 2013, we received a petition from the WildEarth Guardians to list the gulf grouper, along with 80 other marine species or subpopulations, as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On February 24, 2014, we published a 90-day  finding that listing may be warranted for the gulf grouper and nine other fish species (79 FR 10104). We published the proposed rule to list the gulf grouper as endangered under the ESA on September 23, 2015 (80 FR 57314). The final rule to list the gulf grouper as endangered under the ESA published on October 20, 2016 (81 FR 72545)

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Epinephelidae
Genus: Mycteroperca
Species: jordani

Key Documents

(All documents are in PDF format.)
Title Federal Register Date
Final Rule to List as Endangered under the ESA 81 FR 72545 10/20/2016
Proposed Rule to List as Endangered under the ESA 80 FR 57314 09/23/2015
Status Review of Gulf Grouper   05/2015
90-day finding on multi-species petition for bony fishes 79 FR 10104 02/24/2014
Petition to List 81 Marine Species under the ESA   07/15/2013
Updated: October 20, 2016