Brownspotted grouper (Epinephelus chlorostigma)

Brownspotted grouper
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Brownspotted grouper fact file

Brownspotted grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

A large, robust-bodied, predatory fish found in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, the brownspotted grouper is distinguished by the tightly-packed, small, dark brown spots scattered across its head, body and fins (2) (3). This spotting is most obvious across the upperparts, becoming sparser on the largely whitish underparts (2). The brownspotted grouper has a deep and slender body, with a slightly truncated tail fin, and large, conspicuous eyes, which sit behind a gaping jaw armed with an array of strong, slender teeth (2) (3). This grouper is distinguished from similar species by having more, larger spines in the dorsal fin and fewer, smaller scales on the body (2).    

Also known as
brown-spotted grouper, brown-spotted reef-cod, brownspotted rockcod.
Serranus areolatus, Serranus assabensis, Serranus celebicus, Serranus chlorostigma, Serranus geoffroyi, Serranus reevesii, Serranus tauvina.
Gris Fin, Loche Pintade, Merou Pintade, Pintade, Vieille Maconde.
Length: 12 – 75 cm (2)
up to 7 kg (2)

Brownspotted grouper biology

Very little is known about the biology of the brownspotted grouper, but like many other members of the genus Epinephelus, it displays the remarkable ability to change its sex, starting its life as a female and, more often than not, later changing to a male (1) (4). Females become sexually mature after reaching a body length of around 25 centimetres, before participating in spawning events, which take place between November and April in some parts of the species’ range, with peaks in spawning at the beginning and end of this period (4). Once the females grow to around 35 to 45 centimetres in length, the majority will become males, and may live up to a staggering 29 years of age (5). The brownspotted grouper is a dominant predator in its habitat and largely feeds on small fish and crustaceans (1).    


Brownspotted grouper range

The brownspotted grouper is found in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, from the Red Sea, south along the East African coast to South Africa, and eastwards to Japan and New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific (1) (2).


Brownspotted grouper habitat

The brownspotted grouper is most often found in and around coral reefs, but occupies a variety of other habitats, including seagrass beds and reef slopes, as well as muddy bottoms in the South China Sea, in both shallow and deep waters down to a depth of 280 metres  (1) (2).


Brownspotted grouper status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Brownspotted grouper threats

Widespread and relatively common, the brownspotted grouper is not currently considered to be threatened with extinction; however, in many places this commercially important species is one of the most frequently caught fishes (1). In northern Somalia and the Seychelles it is the most commonly caught grouper, while it constitutes around 20 percent of the grouper catch in Madagascar and 80 percent in southwest India (1) (6). The brownspotted grouper is also of critical economic importance to the United Arab Emirates and several countries in Southeast Asia (2). This intense level of exploitation has led to declines in some areas, and today the species appears largely absent from southern Mozambique and is rare off Somalia, while the total annual catch of the species in the Seychelles fell from around 140 tonnes in 1986 to only 40 tonnes in 2005 (1) (4).  


Brownspotted grouper conservation

The brownspotted grouper is protected in a number of marine reserves across its range, including the KwaZulu-Natal Marine Protected Area in South Africa, in which fishing is strictly prohibited. Fisheries are also regulated in some areas of the South African and Mozambique coastline, where the size and number of brownspotted groupers caught is limited (1). In addition, this species will benefit from proposed measures to develop a system of reserve management areas in the Seychelles, in which the level of fishing will be regulated and monitored to ensure it is maintained at sustainable levels (7).

ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra

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Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2010)
  2. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue. Volume 16. Groupers of the World (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of the Grouper, Rockcod, Hind, Coral Grouper, and Lyretail Species Known to Date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 16. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome.
  3. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Sanders, M.J., Carrara, G. and Lablache, G. (1988) Preliminary review of the brownspotted grouper Epinephelus chlorostigma occurring on the Mahé Plateau (Syechelles). In: Sanders, M.J., Sparre, P. and Venema, S.C. (Eds.) Proceedings of the Workshop on the Assessment of the Fishery Resources in the Southwest Indian Ocean. FAO/UNDP.
  5. FishBase (July, 2010)
  6. Raghu Prasad, R. and Ramachandran Nair, P.V. (1973) India and the Indian Ocean fisheries. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 15: 1-19.
  7. Robinson, J. and Shroff, J. (2004) The fishing sector in Seychelles: an overview, with an emphasis on artisanal fisheries. Seychelles Medical and Dental Journal, 7: 52-56.

Image credit

Brownspotted grouper  
Brownspotted grouper

© Richard Field

Richard Field


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