Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis (Steindachner 1866)


Other Names: Blue Groper, Brown Groper, Eastern Blue Wrasse, Giant Pigfish, Giant Pig-fish, Red Groper

A male Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis, at Fairy Bower, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, June 2015. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Summary:

A large stocky inquisitive wrasse with thick fleshy lips, a large squarish tail, large heavy scales and peg-like teeth. Eastern Blue Groper are hermaphrodites and may change sex from female to male during their life cycle.

Adult males are bright blue to greenish-blue, while females are usually reddish-brown to brown, often with randomly-spaced pale spots and blotches. Juveniles are greyish to greyish-brown, also with spots and blotches.

Video of an Eastern Blue Groper being cleaned by lots of Eastern Cleaner Clingfish, Cochleoceps orientalis.

Video of an Eastern Blue Groper at Shark Point, near Cronulla, Sydney.

Video of an old friendly male Eastern Blue Groper at South Solitary Island.

A fish called Monty - an Eastern Blue Groper at Julian Rocks.


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Achoerodus viridis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Nov 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/207

Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis (Steindachner 1866)

More Info


Distribution

Endemic to temperate marine waters of eastern and southeastern Australia, from about Hervey Bay, Queensland, to the Lakes Entrance region, and possibly to Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, and south to northeastern Tasmania.

Eastern Blue Groper are more common in New South Wales waters than in other parts of their range. They inhabit coastal reefs, in depths of 1-60+ metres. Juveniles often shelter in seagrass beds in estuaries.

Most adult Eastern Blue Groper inhabit exposed coastal and offshore rocky reefs, however, individuals occasionally move some distance upstream in the Parramatta River, Sydney. Juveniles up to about 10 cm in length inhabit seagrass beds in bays and estuaries. As they grow, they move to rocky reefs covered in macroalgae such as kelp.

Although historic 1840 records indicate that Eastern Blue Groper were once relatively common in Tasmanian waters and were sold in the Hobart Fish Market, Casper et al. (2011) concluded that it is unlikely that the species was present in Tasmania in the 1800s, and if present, was certainly not common. However, Eastern Blue Groper are now present in small numbers in the waters of waters of NE Tasmania, due to the southerly movement of the East Australian Current Sightings in eastern Victoria and Tasmania may be logged on Redmap.

Prior to the 1970's, Eastern Blue Groper were reportedly common in East Gippsland, Victoria. Their numbers were drastically reduced by fishing during the 1960's and 1970's. The good news is that they have recently been seen in large numbers around Lakes Entrance, Victoria.

Features

Dorsal fin XI, 10-11; Anal fin III, 10-11; Pectoral fin 16-18; Pelvic fin I,5; Caudal fin 14; Vertebrae 28

Body moderately long and deep, large adults with a hump on forehead, 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; pelvic fin short, distinctly not reaching anus.

Size

To a length of 1.2 m, and a weight of 18 kg.

Colour

Like most other wrasses, Eastern Blue Gropernn are able to change sex, which is accompanied by a change in colour. Juveniles are overall greenish-brown to brown. Adult females are reddish-brown to brown, often with a darker red spot on each scale. And the terminal phase adult males range in colour from bright cobalt blue to a deep navy blue (hence their common name), often with yellow to orange lines or spots around the eyes.

Feeding

The Eastern Blue Groper is a benthic carnivore feeding on a wide range of invertebrates, including crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms. Recently settled juveniles tend to feed on small crustaceans such as harpactacoid copepods and tanaids. As they grow juvenile Blue Groper move to rocky reefs where they usually feed on gammarid amphipod crustaceans and gastropod molluscs.

Larger fish eat more hard-bodied molluscs (mussels, limpets, gastropods), crustaceans (crabs) and echinoderms (sea urchins) that are crushed by the groper's strong pharyngeal teeth. Sea urchins and mussels become the dominant prey items, although crabs are reported to be the most popular bait used by recreational anglers in New South Wales. Blue gropers can flip sea urchins upside-down and use their strong teeth to break open the urchins around the central mouth region.

Biology

Like most wrasses, blue gropers are protogynous hermaphrodites, and are capable of changing sex from females to males during their life cycle. Spawning occurs in deeper offshore waters during winter and spring (June to October). Spawning behaviour is unknown. Most larvae settle between July to September after a pelagic larval stage of up to 4 weeks.

Like their western cousins, Eastern Blue Groper may live in small social groups or 'harems' comprised of one male, some mature females and several juveniles. All juveniles are female, and usually become sexually mature between 20-30cm SL, at about 2-4 years of age. Females change sex at a length of about 50cm SL.  

At 10 years of age, an Eastern Blue Groper will measure approx. 48cm in length, and weigh about 2.4kgs. At 20 years of age they will have grown to about 62cm, and weigh about 5.3kgs, and at 30 years of age they will be approx. 73cm long and weigh about 8.4kgs.

All large blue individuals are males (Terminal Phase). Mature females pass through an Initial Phase, where they are bisexual, possessing both female and male reproductive tissue, before becoming fully mature males. Most males are at least 10 years old.

A description of Eastern Blue Groper larvae can be found at http://australianmuseum.net.au/Larval-Eastern-Blue-Groper-Achoerodus-viridis

Fisheries

Eastern Blue Groper are fished recreationally throughout their range, and are also subject to minor commercial fishing, except in New South Wales.

The species was a popular target for spearfishers several decades ago, and were a highly-prized food fish. Reported captures of Eastern Blue Groper declined by 90% from 1952–1967 (Young et al. 2014). They were taken such large numbers that concerns for their survival in New South Wales led to their total protection in 1969 via a five-year fishing ban. Although this total ban was lifted in 1974, the ban on spearfishing remains.

In 1975 the use of bottom-set gill nets by commercial fishers was banned due to the large numbers taken. In 1980, the commercial sale of Eastern Blue Groper in New South Wales was prohibited, with a fine of $11,000 imposed on anyone caught spearing them. From 1980, the taking of Eastern Blue Groper in New South Wales was restricted to recreational anglers using hook and line. Anglers are permitted to take 2 fish per day, with no size limit. The annual recreational catch in New South Wales is estimated at 20-50 tonne. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/375880/Eastern-Blue-Groper.pdf

As of April 2011, both Eastern and Western Blue Groper became fully protected in Victorian waters.

Conservation

IUCN Red List: Near Threatened

As mentioned above, in the past, Eastern Blue Groper were taken in large numbers by spearfishers. This lead to the species being totally protected in New South Wales waters in 1969. Angling and commercial fishing were again permitted in 1974, however the spearfishing ban remained. Shortly after, bottom-set gill nets were banned and in 1980, Eastern Blue Groper were banned from sale.

As of April 2011, Eastern Blue Groper are fully protected in Victoria waters.

Remarks

The Eastern Blue Groper is the Marine Emblem for New South Wales. This very long-lived species may reach 35 years of age. Recent sightings in Tasmania and Victoria may indicate that the that populations may be increasing, and that the species may be expanding its range southwards.

Similar Species

Eastern Blue Groper are very similar to, and difficult to tell apart from Western Blue Groper, Achoerodus gouldii. Eastern Blue Groper have slightly smaller scales, 41-45 pored lateral line scales and 9-10.5 scale rows between the lateral line and the dorsal-fin origin, vs larger scales, 33-37 pored lateral line scales, and 7-7.5 scale rows between the lateral line and the dorsal-fin origin in Western Blue Groper. Eastern Blue Groper may also attain a smaller maximum size and have a shorter life span than the western species.

Species Citation

Heterochoerops viridis Steindachner, 1866, Anz. Kaiser. Akad. Wissensch. 3(7): 52. Type locality: Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia

Author

Bray, D.J. 2018

Resources

Australian Faunal Directory

Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis (Steindachner 1866)

References


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Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37384043

Biology:Hermaphrodite

Conservation:IUCN Near Threatened; NSW partly protected: VIC fully protected

Depth:1-60 m

Fishing:Rec fish (NSW only)

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:120 cm TL; 18 kg

Native:Endemic

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map