IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The total global catch of this species is estimated to be no more than 400 mt annually (Sadovy et al. 2003), yet despite this low volume, severe declines are noted in all places for which data are available and occurring very soon after fishing begins, reducing numbers by more than 50% (see country accounts and summary table) (both fishery-dependent and fishery-independent) and where management is not effective. Much of the trade is now in juvenile fish which is the preferred market size for live fish. It is severely reduced anywhere that it is fished unless a) it is effectively managed, b) there is no export trade or night spearfishing, and c) it is not included in marine protected areas. It is a species that appears to be highly conservation-dependent. There is no regional fishery management authority for this species and FAO does not collect data on it.
The listing of this species as Endangered is based on a population reduction of at least 50% over the last three generations (approximately 30 years) based on an index of abundance and actual or potential levels of exploitation (A2bd). The declines are predicted to continue or even accelerate because of the likely growth of the live fish export trade (A3bd).
This species can live at least 30 years (25 for males and 32 for females) and becomes sexually mature at six years (J.H. Choat, C.R. Davies, J. Ackerman and B.D. Mapstone, unpublished manuscript). This means that its generation time is expected to be in the order of 10 years and that the rate of intrinsic population increase is likely to be low; natural predators are few and natural mortality rate was determined to be 0.14 or less (J.H. Choat, C.R. Davies, J. Ackerman and B.D. Mapstone, unpublished manuscript). The species is particularly vulnerable because the bulk of the fishery for live fish, at least in east Malaysia, southwest Philippines and Indonesia (the major suppliers for the live reef fish trade and the centre of the species’ range) is selective for juvenile sized fish since this is the preferred size class for consumers and gains the highest prices. This selective fishery for animals below but close to the size of sexual maturation has the potential to severely reduce the reproductive capability of exploited populations. The species cannot be artificially cultured (i.e., hatchery produced) to relieve fishing pressure.
The declines are projected to continue or worsen in key source countries for live fish because:
a) The species is one of the two most highly valued fish, economically, in the luxury live reef fish trade on a per kg basis;
b) Of the probable intrinsic vulnerability of such a large and long-lived reef fish, that is also hermaphroditic with relatively few adult males, and an aggregation-spawner, to overfishing; and
c) In places where the species has declined but is still actively sought, fishers only find a few fish a month or a year, at most;
d) The projected growth in the live fish trade, especially into mainland China in the next few years.
Finally, despite regulations in many places, there is much illegal, unregulated and unmonitored trade, according to many verbal accounts by fishers and traders and there is no regional management authority actively engaged in managing this small fishery and FAO does not collect data on it. It only remains abundant where protected or not fished at all. Protective legislation in most places appears to be ineffective.
Follow the link below for a summary of the population data derived from fishery-indepent and fishery dependent sources.