Red porgy (Pagrus pagrus)

Red porgy
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Red porgy fact file

Red porgy description

GenusPagrus (1)

This commercially important fish is named for the rosy tint to its fins and upperparts (2) (3). The red porgy has a shimmering silvery-white underside and rows of small blue spots pattern the upper body (3). It has a large head, with a distinctive sloping forehead, rather large eyes (2), and prominent teeth (3). Two blue streaks, one above and one below the eye (3), highlight the head, while the tail is edged in black and has white tips (2).

Also known as
common sea bream, Couch’s sea bream.
Pagre Commun, Pagre Rouge.
Besugo, Pargo-colorado, Sargo Piedra, Sargo Rojo.
Length: up to 85 cm (2)

Red porgy biology

The red porgy has a fascinating life history; all individuals start life as females, and then some change sex to become functional males (4). This sex transition may take place when the red porgy is a juvenile or, more commonly, after the age of three years (7), with some individuals not changing until the female is 6.5 years old (8). Sex change in fish is normally trigged by environmental or social factors, but what exactly triggers sex change in the red porgy is not known (8).

In the western Atlantic, the red porgy spawns during winter and early spring (4) (7), while in the Mediterranean, spawning takes place from spring until summer (4). Females are believed to produce eggs throughout the spawning season, releasing around 55 batches of eggs into the surrounding waters each year (7). Sea temperatures between 16 and 22 degrees Celsius are optimum for spawning in the red porgy (4). Between 28 and 38 hours after the eggs have been fertilised by the male’s sperm, the eggs hatch. The resulting larvae are transported by ocean currents for 30 days or more (9), before settling on the sea bottom (7). The red porgy develops at a rather fast rate for the first four years of life, with the growth rate slowing significantly as sexual maturity is reached (4). These fish are known to live for up to 18 years (9).

Red porgy are carnivorous fish (3) (6), which tend to feed in schools on a variety of marine animals found on the ocean floor. Their strong teeth enable them to eat snails, crabs and sea urchins, as well as worms and small fishes (3).


Red porgy range

The red porgy occurs in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Mediterranean Sea, from New York and Argentina in the west, to the British Isles and Senegal in the east (4).

See this species on Google Earth.


Red porgy habitat

While juvenile red porgys are generally found in shallow waters over soft bottoms (5), adults are typically found over more hard-bottomed areas in deeper waters (5) (6).


Red porgy status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Red porgy threats

This Endangered species is of great interest to commercial fisheries in certain parts of its distribution (4). For example, it is one of the most important fishes taken by the Moroccan fishing fleet (4), and the second most important species for coastal bottom fisheries in the Azores (5). There is some evidence that this exploitation is having a negative effect on red porgy populations; for example in southern Brazil, trawl fishing during the 1970s left red porgy stocks over-exploited (10).


Red porgy conservation

In some areas of its range, fishery regulations exist for the red porgy. For instance, off the southern coast of the United States there is a size limit in place, a ban on the sale or purchase of red porgy between January and April (an important spawning period), and limits to how many can be caught during a fishing trip (11).

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:


Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2008)
  2. Jennings, G. (1996) European Sea Fishes. Gibraltar to Norway. Calypso Publications, London.
  3. Daniel, L. (2007) North Carolina Coastal Recreation Angler’s Guide. Division of Marine Fisheries, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Morehead City, North Carolina.
  4. Pajuelo, J.G. and Lorenzo, J.M. (1996) Life history of the red porgy Pagrus pagrus (Teleostei: Sparidae) off the Canary Islands, central east Atlantic. Fisheries Research, 28: 163 - 177.
  5. Afonso, P., Tempera, F. and Menezes, G. (2008) Population structure and habitat preferences of the red porgy (Pagrus pagrus) in the Azores, central north Atlantic. Fisheries Research, 93(3): 338 - 345.
  6. Labropoulou, M., Machias, A. and Tsimenides, N. (1999) Habitat selection and diet of juvenile red porgy, Pagrus pagrus (Linnaeus, 1758). Fishery Bulletin, 97(3): 495 - 507.
  7. Southeast Fisheries Science Center. (2006) Stock Assessment of Red Porgy off the Southeastern United States. Report of Assessment Workshop, Beaufort, North Carolina.
  8. Kokokiris, L., Bruslé, S., Kentouri, M. and Fostier, A. (1999) Sexual maturity and hermaphroditism of the red porgy Pagrus pagrus (Teleostei: Sparidae). Marine Biology, 134(4): 621 - 629.
  9. Southeast Fisheries Science Center. (2002) Stock Assessment of South Atlantic Red Porgy. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, South Carolina.
  10. Haimovici, M. (1998) Present state and perspectives for the southern Brazil shelf demersal fisheries. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 5: 277 - 289.
  11. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (September, 2008)

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Red porgy  
Red porgy

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