Red Grouper

Common Name:

Red Grouper

Scientific Name:

Epinephelus morio

Seafood guides quicktabs

Sourcing Summary

5-15 lbs.

Red grouper is available year-round with peak catches in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico occurring during the summer and fall. Approximately 70% of the grouper harvested in U.S. waters is red grouper. Groupers are sometimes sold as “sea bass,” “mero” or the Hawaiian name “hapu’u”.  The fish is sold fresh and frozen as whole fish, fillets, and steaks. Red grouper flesh is white and lean with a notable lack of bones, and is very forgiving when cooked as it remains moist, firm, and has large flakes. Because of its high oil content and dense flakes, red grouper has a high culinary versatility. Red grouper is considered the best tasting grouper with a distinct shellfish finish due to its diet. 

Harvest Methods

Wild

Pot/Trap
Hook & Line
Handline
Cast Net
Bottom Longline

Product Forms

Fresh

  • Fillet
  • Steaks
  • Whole

Frozen

  • Fillet
  • Steaks
  • Whole
Fresh Seasonal Availability
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Culinary Composition

Flavor

Texture

Oil

Cooking Methods

Advisory Concern

Mercury

Health & Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving size: 100 Grams
Amount per serving
  • Calories
    92.00
  • Total Fat
    1.02
    g
  • Cholesterol
    39.00
    mg
  • Sodium
    53.00
    mg
  • Carbohydrates
    0.00
    g
  • Protein
    19.30
    g
  • Omega-3
    0.30
    g

Recommended Servings per Month

Biology

Red grouper grow slowly and can reach up to 50 inches in length and weigh up to 50 pounds. The oldest recorded red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico was 29 years, while the oldest recorded in the South Atlantic was 26 years old. They spawn in shallow waters from February through June, and spawn almost 26 times in a season. 

Red grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they all begin life as a female and eventually some may transform into males. The females reach sexual maturity between ages 4 and 6, and those who turn into males often do so between the ages of 7 and 15. The proportion of males in a population of red grouper increases with age.

Red grouper have large mouths with a slight under-bite, which allows them to eat their prey whole by dilating their gill covers and rapidly inhaling. They are among the top reef predators, controlling some aspects of balance in a reef system. Red grouper eat any convenient prey. Young grouper are preyed upon by jacks, other groupers, sharks, barracudas, and morays; adults are eaten by large sharks and carnivorous marine mammals.

Species Habitat

Red grouper are found in the western Atlantic Ocean with ranges extending from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil. They are common in waters ranging from 10 to 40 feet deep and inhabit shallower marine waters in comparison to other grouper species. Juveniles prefer living near grass beds, rock formations, and reefs in shallow, nearshore waters – moving offshore as they mature and grow in size. Adult red grouper can be found along ledges, crevices, and caverns along limestone reefs. They also frequent areas with live bottom structures such as sponges, corals, and sea squirts. Adults may school or move together in these areas as groups, but only for short distances.

Red grouper act as “marine engineers” in their ecosystem by hollowing out flat-bottomed areas to create their home and attract mates. This process provides habitat to other species such as spiny lobster, black grouper, red porgy, and vermilion snapper. 

Science & Management:
  • Wild
    Science: 

    NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center Reef Fish Research program provides ongoing assessments of red grouper stock and reserve effectiveness. Their grouper habitat utilization investigation looks at seasonal movement patterns in an attempt to improve populations and fishery management. Reef fish habitat assessments compare acoustic mapping results alongside diver-assessed reef fish data to better study fish-habitat correlations.

    Management: 

    NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manage the red grouper fishery along the US Atlantic. Red grouper are managed under the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan (FMP) along with several other south Atlantic species. Implemented in 1983, the Snapper-Grouper FMP was established to end historic overfishing of red and other grouper species. The plan and its amendments include numerous measures to rebuild current populations. Among those measures are:

    • Limiting the number of available permits (both transferable and nontransferable) available to commercial fishers
    • Establishing annual catch limits for both commercial and recreational fishers
    • Closing the fishery once annual quotas are projected to be met
    • Commercial and recreational size limits to reduce harvest of immature grouper
    • Seasonal closures from January to April to protect spawning aggregations
    • Gear restrictions to protect habitat and reduce bycatch
    • Eight deep-water marine protected areas closed to fishing and possession of snapper and grouper

    According to a 2010 stock assessment, South Atlantic red grouper are not overfished, nor subject to overfishing – though current populations are below target levels. The life history of the species (slow-growing, late-maturing, and long-lived) means that rebuilding plans for some grouper species can take years to accomplish. There is also a lack of basic management data such as quantitative stock assessments and discard rates for many species in the Snapper-Grouper FMP – further limiting rebuilding efforts.

    NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manage the red grouper fishery in the US Gulf of Mexico under the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). US commercial production of grouper is dominated by the Gulf Coast and in 2011, the US Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish fishery landed more than nine times the amount of grouper as compared to the US South Atlantic – largely due to the high landings of red grouper in the gulf. 

    Established in 1984, the Reef Fish FMP and its amendments were designed to end historic overfishing for shallow water groupers and to rebuild populations. The plan:

    • Allocates an annual catch limit between commercial (76 percent) and recreational (24 percent) fishers
    • Restricts certain gear types to reduce bycatch
    • Sets minimum size restrictions to protect immature red grouper
    • Establishes year round and seasonal area closures for both commercial and recreational fishers to protect spawning stock and essential fish habitat

    The FMP also institutes a permit system in which commercial vessels must have a reef fish permit and an individual fishing quota (IFQ) to harvest red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. The IFQ program allocates shares of the total commercial catch limit amongst individual fishers. Under the program, each fisher owns a share of the quota and can chose to fish it at anytime during the open season. Strict commercial reporting requirements prevent fishers from harvesting more than their individual allocation.

    The Reef Fish FMP has been a success in allowing red grouper populations to bounce back from overfishing that had occurred on and off in the Gulf since the 1970s. In 2007 the Gulf of Mexico red grouper fishery was officially considered rebuilt. A 2016 stock assessment, based on 2012 catch data, determined that the species is not overfished nor subject to overfishing.

Wild

Impact on Stock

Red grouper are found from the Mid-Atlantic U.S. states to southern Brazil, with most coming from Cuba and Brazil. They are fairly long-lived and come together to spawn in large numbers, characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure. In the U.S., red grouper are split into South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico stocks. The Gulf of Mexico population in the was declared overfished in 2000 and then was rebuilt to target levels in 2007, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. The South Atlantic stock is no longer overfished, but a 2010 assessment showed it hasn’t been fully rebuilt.

Habitat Impacts

Grouper are caught with hook-and-line gear, including handlines and bottom longline gear, as well as some traps, pots and cast nets. Reef fish and sea turtles risk getting caught in this gear, although there are restrictions in place that limit where the gear can be used. Bottom longline gear can have moderate impacts on the seafloor while handlines have low ecosystem impacts, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Bycatch

Grouper fisheries have high impacts on nontarget species, the Monterey Bay Aquarium reported. Bycatch can include sharks, black sea bass, blueline tilefish, smooth dogfish, giant snake eel, golden tilefish, gray triggerfish, greater amberjack, red porgy, red snapper, scamp, speckled hind, vermilion snapper and yellowtail snapper. Loggerhead sea turtles were getting caught in bottom longline gear but that is being addressed with monitoring and a reduction in gear. The red grouper fisheries use dehooking devices and circle hooks to reduce bycatch. Venting tools are also employed to make it easier for reef fish to survive when released.

Management Effectiveness

In the United States, red grouper management measures include permits, annual catch limits, fishing quotas, marine protected areas that are closed to fishing, seasonal closures, gear restrictions, minimum size limits, and data reporting requirements. Management in the Gulf of Mexico received a better score than the South Atlantic from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2014 Seafood Watch report because that area has observer programs, which are lacking in the Atlantic. Overall the report called U.S. red grouper management moderately effective.

Farmed
Origin Harvest Method Sustainability Ratings FIP Source
Mexico (FIP) Longline
Seafood Watch- Avoid
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
Fishery Improvement Project (FIP)
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
FIP product
Mexico - Gulf of Mexico Set Longlines
Seafood Watch- Avoid
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
Unassessed Origin Unassessed Fishing Methods
Seafood Watch- Unrated
Ocean Wise- Unrated
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
USA - Gulf of Mexico Set Longlines
Seafood Watch- Good Alternative
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
NOAA FSSI- 4 out of 4
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
USA - Gulf of Mexico Vertical Lines
Seafood Watch- Good Alternative
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
NOAA FSSI- 4 out of 4
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
USA - West Central Atlantic Vertical Lines
Seafood Watch- Avoid
Ocean Wise- Not Recommended
Good Fish Guide - Unrated
NOAA FSSI- 1 out of 4
Name Country State/Province
Ariel Seafoods United States Florida
Baton Rouge Shrimp Company, Inc. United States Louisiana
Catanese Classic Seafood United States Ohio
Channel Seafoods International United States Florida
Chefs Trading United States District of Columbia
DiCarlo Seafood Company United States California
Empire Fish Company United States Wisconsin
Euclid Fish Company United States Ohio
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance United States Florida
Handy Seafood Incorporated United States Maryland
Imperial Seafood and Shellfish Inc. United States Ohio
IncredibleFish, Inc. United States Florida
John Nagle Co. United States Massachusetts
Legend Seafood United States Florida
Macgregors Meat & Seafood Ltd. Canada Ontario
Netuno USA United States Florida
Northeast Seafood Products, Inc. United States Colorado
Northern Lakes Seafood & Meats United States Michigan
Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC United States Washington
Offshore Seafood Co. United States Florida
Orca Seafoods Mexico Yucatán
Pacific Harvest Seafoods United States California
Profish Ltd. United States District of Columbia
Sam Rust Seafood United States Virginia
Samuels & Son Seafood Company, Inc. United States Pennsylvania
Sarasota Seafood Company United States Florida
Sea Delight, LLC. United States Florida
Sea to Table, USA United States New York
Seafood Merchants Ltd. United States Illinois
Seasource, Inc. United States North Carolina
Seattle Fish Company United States Colorado
Seattle Fish Company - Kansas City United States Missouri
Seven Seas Seafood Market United States South Carolina
Triar Seafood Company United States Florida

Acknowledgements

  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Seafood Watch Program
  • SeafoodSource
Last Updated: 9/18/2020