Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 50-70%
Comments: Declines in abundance, size, fishery landings, and spawning aggregations are apparent throughout much of range; widespread declines in intensively fished areas have occurred since the 1950s (Sadovy 1990). Specific site information on population trends follow. At least one-fifth of documented aggregations have apparently disappeared over the past two decades, very probably the direct result of intense fishing (Sadovy, in press). May have had high relative and absolute abundance in southern Florida in the past; may have been as abundant as black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci). The frequency of occurrence in Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys headboats has declined since the 1970s. In the early 1980s, CPUE (number of grouper per trip landed) decreased for headboat and Biscayne National Park data; some evidence suggests that abundance may have been declining since the 1950s, similar to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda (Bohnsack 1990, Bohnsack et al. 1994). Formerly (before 1980) common in the U.S. western Atlantic, considered extremely rare now because of intense fishing (Huntsman et al. 1990). Historically common offshore in the Florida Keys; found during virtually every dive in the proper areas (Starck 1968). Historically one of the most commercially important food fishes in the tropical western Atlantic. In Belize, from 1972-84, this and other grouper species constituted the second most commonly caught and most valuable marine fishes. Local Belizean fishermen landed in excess of 100,000 pounds annually in the 1950s, but less than 30,000 pounds by 1986. Intense fishing of spawning aggregations in the U.S. Virgin Islands before 1980 led to commercial extinction; total loss of aggregations occurred at a known spawning site south of St. Thomas and on Lang Bank north-northeast of St. Croix (Olsen and LaPlace 1978, Beets and Friedlander 1992). Intense fishing has led to replacement by smaller grouper species. Commercial landings in Bermuda declined precipitously from over 33 tons in 1975 to less than 2 tons in 1981; no evidence of subsequent recovery as of the mid-1990s. Aggregation size and spawning period have both decreased off the southern coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, particularly in the past two decades (Aguilar-Perera 1990, Aguilar-Perera and Aguilar-Davila 1996). Grouper catch in Belize has decreased in size since the 1920s. Males comprise 25 percent of population, but comprise 37 percent of population elsewhere (Carter et al. 1993).