Despite being the largest reef-dwelling fish in the world, the Queensland groper is rarely seen in the wild (1). Juveniles are characterised by dark spots and a banded pattern, whilst adults are mottled brownish to dark grey, a colouration which provides good camouflage in the reef habitat (1)(3). The Queensland groper has a stocky body and rounded tail, and is often seen either resting motionless on the bottom or hovering in mid-water (3).
Little information is available on the biology of the Queensland groper (1), a solitary and long-lived species (3). It is known to be a carnivorous fish, with a diet consisting of spiny lobsters, crabs, bony fish, skate and small sharks (4). Although not much is known about its breeding habits, the Queensland groper is thought to attain sexual maturity when it reaches about 1.3 metres in length (3), and spawning, when the female releases a large quantity of eggs into the surrounding water, is believed to occur during the summer months (4). Surprisingly, several attacks on divers by this large species have been recorded (4).
The Queensland groper is the most widely distributed member of the grouper family. It occurs in the Indo-Pacific region, from South Africa to the Hawaiian Islands. In South East Asia it has been recorded in Japan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, and populations occur along the temperate and tropical coasts of Australia, from New South Wales through to Queensland (1).
The Queensland groper is currently considered to be vulnerable to extinction as a result of over-fishing (1). It is popular in the live fish trade of South East Asia, where it is considered to be of great medicinal value and thought to bring good luck. The meat of smaller individuals is considered a delicacy, with retail prices as high as $169 per kilogram. Juveniles are also at risk of being captured for the aquarium trade (3). Unfortunately, populations of the Queensland groper are even low in unexploited areas, as a large area of reef is required to sustain an individual fish (1).
In Australia this species is protected from both line and spear fishing in Queensland and New South Wales waters, and studies are being conducted to discover more about its biology, particularly aspects such as breeding, migration and spawning (3). The capture of the Queensland groper is also banned in the Andaman Islands; the success of this measure is illustrated by the fact that populations here are thriving (2).
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