The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world's largest and oldest conservation union, made up of national governments and NGOs. It is probably best known for the Red List which indicates the conservation status of thousands of species of plants and animals which have been assessed by experts into Specialist Groups (SGs) under the umbrella of the Species Survival Commission (SSC). The Groupers & Wrasses Specialist Group (GWSG), which specializes on the valuable reef-associated groupers of the world and contains many of the world's grouper experts, met in the past six days in Faial island, Azores, Portugal to assess all 164 species in this group globally.
Patrice Francour, member of the GWSG, has had in charge to review the species of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Groupers & Wrasses Specialist Group, which specializes on the valuable reef-associated groupers of the world and contains many of the world's grouper experts, met in the past six days in Faial island, Azores, Portugal to assess all 164 species in this group globally. This is only the second time in a decade that this SG has assembled after the first in 2007 in Hong Kong when most of these species were assessed for the first time globally. The Azores workshop, supported by the IUCN Biodiversity Unit staff, is key because Red List re-assessments must be completed at least once every ten years. In fact, it is the first time that a marine SG is undergoing a global reassessment to determine any changes over a decade.
In the case of groupers revisiting their condition is particularly significant because of growing exploitation pressure on this group of fishes, which are so important for livelihoods and as a source of food in many locations around the globe. Few groupers seem to be monitored regularly, few are managed effectively, and many are declining. Because of their biology of slow maturation, long life and frequent spawning aggregations, many of these species are particularly vulnerable to overfishing so there are great concerns about declining populations.
Thirty five experts from 13 countries gathered in the Azores to shine light on the current condition of this group and to identify those species in higher risk of extinction in the future, helping move towards more sustainable practices. The preliminary/draft workshop assessments reflect growing concerns for the condition of several grouper species and especially those that are heavily exploited when aggregating to spawn. We also recognize the urgent need to collect better data on grouper fisheries and to manage them much more effectively than we do today if we are to have them into the future.
The workshop was co-organized by the GWSG, IMAR - Institute of Marine Research based at the University of the Azores - and MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, and was generously funded by the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (Hong Kong), the Mohammed bin Zayed Fund, the University of Hong Kong and the Regional Government of the Azores.
In the Mediterranean, the Brown Grouper (Mycteroperca marginatus), the Mottled Grouper (Mycteroperca rubra), the Goldblotch Grouper (Mycteroperca costae) are the best known species. In the near Atlantic, it is white grouper (Epinephelus aeneus). Ecologically important as predators of high trophic level, these species have high economic value for fishing (the White Grouper in Senegal for example) or for submarine tourism (Brown Grouper for example in the Mediterranean). The last workshop of the GWSG considered that at a global level the status of the Brown Grouper remained “Endangered”, the intermediate level between “Vulnerable” and “Critically Endangered”. Similarly, the overall status of the white grouper was assessed as “Near Threatened”, the level just before “Vulnerable”. However, the status may be different at regional level. For example in Senegal where the decline of white grouper fisheries is spectacular, the species must be considered as endangered. The final conclusions of the GWSG are expected to be published in 2017. However to prepare the future reassessments, an important synthesis of the available knowledge, particularly in terms of catches by fisheries, needs to be done for these Mediterranean and Near Atlantic species.