You may be surprised to know that it is possible for marine fish to go extinct. Many think that because the ocean is so big that it must not be possible. A recent IUCN Red List assessment for groupers indicates that of the 163 species of grouper globally, 20 are in the three threatened categories. Groupers are especially susceptible to overfishing because they are highly sought after for their size and taste. This is combined with their biology and ecology that increase the chance of being overfished. They are long-lived, late maturing species and many aggregate in staggering numbers at specific, predictable times and places.
This past year we have been doing biodiversity studies and plan to conduct research that will assist in these IUCN assessments. We will be featuring different fish and coral species that are threatened in future posts. So, what is the status of the groupers we have observed in Watamu Marine Park? Well, of the 163 species of grouper globally, of which at least 37 are found in Kenya (Agembe 2010), we have observed 7 grouper species in our research this past year. One of these was assessed as near threatened (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus) and another as vulnerable (Plectropomus laevis – shown in photo below). A recent review of the IUCN Red List status of groupers (Sadovy et al. 2012) suggested that basic biological and ecological research is necessary for assessment and management of these species. We hope to make a small contribution towards this and continue to work with Kenya Wildlife Service to better understand Watamu Marine Park as these marine protected areas have been shown to be especially beneficial for grouper populations.
Simon Agembe, Chrisestom M. Mlewa and Boaz Kaunda-Arara. 2010. Catch Composition, Abundance and Length-Weight Relationships of Groupers (Pisces: Serranidae) from Inshore Waters of Kenya. Western Indian Ocean J. Mar. Sci. Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 91 – 102.
Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, Matthew T Craig, Athila A Bertoncini, Kent E Carpenter, William W L Cheung, John H Choat, Andrew S Cornish, Sean T Fennessy, Beatrice P Ferreira, Philip C Heemstra, Min Liu, Robert F Myers, David A Pollard, Kevin L Rhodes, Luiz A Rocha, Barry C Russell, Melita A Samoilys, Jonnell Sanciangco. Fishing groupers towards extinction: a global assessment of threats and extinction risks in a billion dollar fishery. Fish and Fisheries, 2012