Malabar grouper (Epinephelus malabaricus)

Malabar grouper resting on reef
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Malabar grouper fact file

Malabar grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

The Malabar grouper is a robust marine fish, with a brownish head and long body. The body is covered with small blackish-brown spots, which increase in number with age, and scattered whitish spots and blotches (2) (3). Five irregular dark brown bars are often visible on the body (3).

Also known as
brown-spotted grouper, greasy grouper, Malabar rockcod.
Mérou Malabare.
Mero Malabárico.
Length: 120 cm (2)
150 kg (2)

Malabar grouper biology

The Malabar grouper has a fascinating and complex life-history. It is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals first function sexually as females and then later, at least some of the mature females change to males (1). The Malabar grouper feeds on fishes and crustaceans and occasionally on octopuses (3).


Malabar grouper range

Occurs in the Indo-Pacific; from the Red Sea to Tonga, north to Japan and south to Australia (1).

See this species on Google Earth.


Malabar grouper habitat

The Malabar grouper occurs in a range of habitats, including coral and rocky reefs, estuaries, mangrove swamps and over sandy and muddy bottoms, from the shore to depths of 150 metres (3)


Malabar grouper status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Malabar grouper threats

The Malabar grouper is one of the most important groupers in commercial and recreational fisheries in the Indo-Pacific region. Because of confusion with similar Epinephelus species, there is little data regarding the extent of its exploitation (3). However, it is believed that fishing has reduced the global population of this species (1). The Malabar grouper is also captured for the live fish trade, and juveniles are caught for “mariculture grow-out”, whereby the wild juveniles are put in cages and grown until they reach a saleable size (1). In addition, habitat loss places additional pressure on populations of the Malabar grouper. In south-east Asia, the area of mangrove swamps has declined drastically and a large proportion of reefs are threatened by human activities (1). These human impacts include poor land management practices that are releasing more sediment, nutrients and pollutants into the oceans and stressing the fragile reef ecosystem. Over fishing has ‘knock-on' effects that results in the increase of macro-algae that can out-compete and smother corals, and fishing using destructive methods physically devastates the reef. A further potential threat is the increase of coral bleaching events, as a result of global climate change (4).


Malabar grouper conservation

The Queensland Fisheries Service has recreational catch limits for Epinephelus species (1), but elsewhere there are not known to be any fisheries regulations in place for the Malabar grouper. It is likely to occur in many Marine Protected Areas within its range, although not all of these are carefully managed and legislation is not always enforced (1). The Malabar grouper can also be maricultured (1), which may lessen the pressure on wild populations.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the 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, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
The cultivation of marine organisms, for food and other products, in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks and ponds filled with seawater.
Protogynous hermaphrodite
An animal that begins its life cycle as a female. As the animal ages, based on internal or external triggers, it shifts sex to become a male animal.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. Lieske, E. and Myers, R. (2001) Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  3. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue: 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. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  4. Wilkinson, C. (2004) Status of Coral Reefs of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

Image credit

Malabar grouper resting on reef  
Malabar grouper resting on reef

© Jez Tryner /

Image Quest Marine
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Poffley End
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Fax: +44 (0) 1993 779203


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