Western Blue Groper, Achoerodus gouldii (Richardson 1843)


Other Names: Blue Groper, Gould's Wrasse , Western Blue Wrasse

A male Western Blue Groper, Achoerodus gouldii, at Esperance, Western Australia, March 1978. Source: leucopogon / iNaturalist.org. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

Summary:

These large inquisitive wrasses are hermaphrodites and may change sex from female to male during their life cycle. Juveniles are greenish with scattered pale spots. Adult females are typically greyish-green to reddish in colour, and the males are greyish to bright blue. 

Western Blue Groper inhabit exposed rocky reefs in coastal waters of southern and south-western Australia. They have a single long-based dorsal fin, a large squarish tail, thick fleshy lips, large heavy scales and peg-like teeth.

Video of a male Western Blue Groper on Lonsdale Wall, just inside the heads of Port Philip,Victoria.

Video of a female Western Blue Groper (and a Horseshoe Leatherjacket) in South Australia.

Western Blue Groper at Kangaroo Island, South Australia.


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Achoerodus gouldii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jun 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/206

Western Blue Groper, Achoerodus gouldii (Richardson 1843)

More Info


Distribution

Western Blue Groper are endemic to temperate coastal waters of southern Australia, from about Inverloch, Victoria, westwards to Geraldton and the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. The species is most abundant on reefs (above 60 m) in South Australia and southern Western Australia.

Although reportedly common on the southern coasts of the Fleurieu and Yorke peninsulas during the 1960's, Western Blue Groper are now uncommon around in these areas, as well as in the upper waters of Spencer Gulf. They are also rare in the Perth area.

The species is reportedly also rare east of the Murray River mouth, although Western Blue Groper are now often seen by divers outside Port Phillip Heads, Victoria, and more recently within Port Phillip. Western Blue Groper are also reportedly rare north of Perth, Western Australia.

Adults inhabit coastal and offshore reefs reefs in depths to 100 m, usually at depths of 5 to about 40 m. Juveniles prefer relatively sheltered waters, such as shallow inshore macroalgal-covered reefs and seagrass meadows. As they mature, they usually move to deeper offshore reefs.

Features

Dorsal fin XI, 11; Anal fin III, 11; Pectoral fin 16-18; Pelvic fin I, 5; Caudal fin 14; Lateral line scales 33-37; Scales above Llat 7-7.5.

Body moderately long and deep, depth 32-41 % SL; hump on forehead in large adults; mouth moderately small, not reaching eye; lips very fleshy, hood-like; each jaw with 2 pairs of flattened canines at the front, lateral teeth mostly embedded and fused with jaw, usually no enlarged canine at rear of upper jaw.

Scales moderately large, covering rear of head including cheeks, onto bases of dorsal and anal fins; lateral line smoothly curved; caudal fin truncate with rounded corners; ventral fin short, distinctly not reaching anus.

Size

To a maximum length of 1.75m TL, and a weight of up to 40kg.

Colour

Juveniles are greenish, sometimes with yellowish or whitish spots scattered over the back. Females are greyish to red, and males are greyish to blue.

Feeding

Benthic carnivores, known to feed on small crabs, smaller crustaceans, echinoderms (sea urchins) and molluscs, including abalone. They use their strong peg-like teeth to prise urchins and molluscs off rocks, and will also bite off pieces of algal mat to eat small crustaceans and other benthic invertebrates that live amongst the algae.

Biology

Western Blue Groper grow very slowly, take a long time to mature and are very long-lived. Individuals at 40 cm in length are about 8 years old, and those measuring 80 cm are about 25 years old. Their length does not increase much after they are 30 years old. Ageing studies that involve counting the rings on otoliths (ear bones) have shown that large males may live to 70 years of age - one of the longest life spans for a wrasse. Individuals increase little in length beyond about 30 years of age.

Like most wrasses, Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii) are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that some individuals change sex from female to male during their life cycle. Juveniles possess both female and male reproductive tissue. They mature slowly, becoming sexually mature females (initial phase) on average at about 15-20 years of age at a length of about 65 cm. 

Individual females are capable of changing sex to terminal phase males at about 82 cm in length at between 30 and 35 years of age. This sex change is accompanied by a change in colour from greenish to blue.

They live in small social groups or 'harems' comprised of a dominant adult male (the largest member of the group), one to two adult females, and several subadult females. If the male dies or is removed from the group by fishing, the dominant female will change sex and colour over a period of about two weeks to become the dominant male. Spawning occurs in deeper offshore waters between early winter and mid-spring.

Although there is no information available on larval Western Blue Groper, the larvae of Eastern Blue Groper have been described.

Fisheries

A highly regarded commercial and recreational species, and targeted in the commercial gillnet fishery on the south Western Australian coast in 20-100 m. Western Blue Groper is the second-most important scale fish on the south coast of Western Australia.

Blue groper are site-attached meaning that they tend to remain in 'home range', and are vulnerable to overfishing. In the past, they have been exploited by spearfishers and anglers because of their large size and reputation as an excellent eating fish, causing numbers to decline.

Conservation

IUCN Red List: VULNERABLE.

Western Blue Groper are very vulnerable to heavy fishing pressure, as the species is extremely long-lived, taking many years to reach sexual maturity firstly as a female (initial phase), and even longer to be able to change sex from female to male. 

South Australia - protected in parts of their range. Under the South Australian Fisheries Management Act 2007, fishing for Western Blue Groper is prohibited in Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent, Investigator Strait and Backstairs Passage.

Victoria - totally protected.

Western Australia - totally protected within the Rottnest Island Marine Reserve. Outside the Reserve, anglers have a bag limit of one Blue Groper, with a minimum size limit of 50cm. Restrictions also apply to commercial fisheries elsewhere in Western Australia. Populations along the west coast have declined and the species is rarely sighted in the Perth area.

Remarks

The Western Blue Groper is the largest bony fish found along Australia's southern coast.

Similar Species

Western Blue Groper are very similar to, and difficult to tell apart from Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis. They have slightly larger scales, 33-37 pored lateral line scales, and 7-7.5 scale rows between the lateral line and the dorsal-fin origin. Eastern Blue Groper have 41-45 pored lateral line scales, and 9-10.5 scale rows between the lateral line and the dorsal-fin origin.

Western Blue Groper grow to a larger size and live longer than their eastern relatives.

Etymology

The species is named for the noted Australian naturalist John Gould.

Species Citation

Labrus gouldii Richardson 1843, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 1 11(71): 353. Type locality: Western Australia

Author

Bray, D.J. 2018

Resources

Australian Faunal Directory

Western Blue Groper, Achoerodus gouldii (Richardson 1843)

References


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Bryars, S., P. Rogers, C. Huveneers, N. Payne, I. Smith & B. McDonald. 2012. Small home range in southern Australia’s largest resident reef fish, the western blue groper (Achoerodus gouldii): implications for adequacy of no-take marine protected areas. Marine and Freshwater Research 63(6): 552-563. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF12016

Choat, J.H., Gillanders, B. & Pollard, D. 2010. Achoerodus gouldii. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 February 2012.

Coulson, P.G., S.A. Hesp, N.G. Hall & I.C. Potter. 2009. The western blue groper (Achoerodus gouldii), a protogynous hermaphroditic labrid with exceptional longevity, late maturity, slow growth, and both late maturation and sex change. Fishery Bulletin 107(1): 57-75.

Coulson, P., Potter, I., Hesp, S. & Hall, N. 2007. Biological parameters required for managing Western Blue Groper, Blue Morwong and Yellowtail Flathead. FRDC Report 2004/57

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Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37384002

Behaviour:5-100+ m

Biology:Hermaphrodite - able to change sex

Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable; VIC fully protected; SA & WA partial protection

Fishing:Commercial & rec fish (not VIC)

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:175 cm TL

Native:Endemic

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map