Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)


Other Names: Black Cod, Black Rock Cod, Saddled Cod, Saddled Rock-cod, Saddletail Cod, Saddletail Grouper, Saddle-tailed grouper, Southern Rockcod, Spotted Black Grouper

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii. Source: Dave Harasti / http://www.daveharasti.com/. License: All rights reserved

Summary:

A large cod with a variable colour pattern ranging from uniform dark greyish-black, to a blotched or banded pattern. Juveniles and subadults have a black blotch or 'saddle' on the upper tail base and 5 dark diagonal greyish to black bands that fade with growth. Individuals in clear waters tend to be banded, whereas those in estuaries are usually darker.

Once widespread along the New South Wales coast, Black Rockcod populations declined from the 1950s until the later 1970s due to heavy targeting by spearfishers.

Great video of Black Rockcod in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.

Video of Black Rockcod in New South Wales.

Video of young black cod in rock pools along the coast, including Port Stephens in New South Wales – home to the state’s largest population.

Video of a Black Rockcod at Fish Rock, South West Rocks, New South Wales.

Video of two large Black Rockcods (aka Spotted Black Grouper) at West Macauley Island, Kermadec Islands, New Zealand.

Large Black Rockcods (aka Spotted Black Grouper) in the Kermadec Islands.


Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Epinephelus daemelii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Mar 2019, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4667

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)

More Info


Distribution

Found in warm temperate to temperate waters of south-eastern Australia, from southern Queensland to Mallacoota, Victoria (rarely further westwards), Tasman Sea islands and seamounts – Norfolk Island, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Lord Howe Island, to New Zealand – the Kermadec Islands, the North Island and the Poor Knights Islands. Depth range 1-50 m.

Inhabits caves, gutters and crevices usually to depths of 50 m, although individuals have been collected from below 100 m. Juveniles are found inshore, often in coastal rockpools and estuaries.

Black Rockcod are very territorial and individuals have relatively small home ranges. Smaller individuals are regularly seen in caves and gutters around Lord Howe Island.

Features

Large individuals over a length of 50 cm have distinct canine teeth on both sides of the upper and lower jaws. 

Size

Grows to about 1.6 m and a weight of 81 kg in Australian waters, and to about 2 m in New Zealand.

Colour

Highly variable in colour, and able to rapidly change from a uniform dark greyish-black to a blotched or banded pattern. Young fish usually have a distinct black spot or saddle on the upper tail base, and five sloping greyish to black bars which break up and fade towards the belly. Fish in estuaries are uniformly dark, whereas those on coastal reefs are usually banded.

Feeding

Carnivore - adults feed on fishes, crustaceans and molluscs such as cuttlefish and octopus. Juveniles reportedly feed on crabs and small fishes.

Biology

Like many groupers (family Serranidae), the Black Rockcod is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals change sex from females to males during their life cycle. In New Zealand, females change sex at 100 to 110 cm in length.

Fisheries

Once common in New South Wales, including the Sydney region, the Black Rockcod was considered a valuable food fish. Declining numbers due to angling and spearfishing resulted in protection of the Black Rockcod. It is illegal to sell the species in New South Wales.

Conservation

IUCN Red List: Near Threatened
EPBC Act 1999: Vulnerable
NSW: Vulnerable (NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 - August 2013 list)

In the past, Black Rockcod were heavily targeted by anglers and spearfishers, resulting in the decline of this speciesand its 1983 protection in New South Wales waters. 
A recent study (Harasti & Malcolm 2013) found that numbers of Black Rockcod remain low despite being protected for about 30 years in New South Wales.
Roughley (1916) reported that “at one time it was fairly plentiful in the vicinity of Port Jackson, but has become very scarce in recent years, owing to the havoc wrought by fishermen…”

Remarks

Black Rockcod are secretive and usually retreat into caves and crevices when approached. 

Similar Species


Etymology


Species Citation

Serranus daemelii Günther, 1876, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 4 17(43): 391. Type locality: Sydney, Australia.

Author

Dianne J. Bray

Resources

Australian Faunal Directory

Black Rockcod, Epinephelus daemelii (Günther 1876)

References


Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

Appleyard, S. & Ward, R. 2007. Genetic connectedness between black cod (E. daemelii) collections along the NSW coast and the Elizabeth & Middleton Reefs Reserve — Final report to the Department of Environment and Water. CSIRO, Canberra.

Aquaculture, Conservation and Marine Parks Unit, Port Stephens Fisheries Institute. 2012. Black Rockcod (Epinephelus daemelii) recovery plan. NSW Department of Primary Industries. 37p. PDF

Ayling, T. & Cox, G.J. 1982. Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of New Zealand. Collins, Auckland. 343 pp.

Choat JH, Herwerden L, Robbins WD, Hobbs JP 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. 

Doak, W. 1978. Fishes of the New Zealand Region. Hodder & Stoughton, Auckland. 33 pp.

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Scientific 47(2): 136-170.

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. (1992) Fishes In: Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific, by The Australian Museum. Kowari 3: 90-92. ANPWS, Canberra.

Griffiths, S.P. 2003. Spatial and temporal dynamics of temperate Australian rockpool ichthyofaunas. Marine and Freshwater Research 54: 163-176.

Günther, A. 1876. Remarks on fishes, with descriptions of new species in the British Museum, chiefly from southern seas. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4 17(43): 389-402

Harasti, D. 2011. Distribution, relative abundance, habitat use and seasonal variation of Black Cod (Epinephelus daemelii) within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park. Unpublished Report to the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority. NSW Marine Parks Authority. PDF

Harasti, D., Gallen, C., Malcolm, H., Tegart, P. & Hughes, B. 2014. Where are the little ones: distribution and abundance of the threatened serranid Epinephelus daemelii (Günther, 1876) in intertidal habitats in New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Applied Ichthyology DOI: 10.1111/jai.12446. Abstract

Harasti, D. & H. Malcolm. 2013. Distribution, relative abundance and size composition of the threatened serranid Epinephelus daemelii in New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 83: 378–395.
doi:10.1111/jfb.12179, available online at wileyonlinelibrary.com

Heemstra, P.C. & Randall, J.E. 1993. Groupers of the World (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of grouper, rockcod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 Vol. 16. Rome: FAO. pp. 1-382                   

Heemstra, P.C. & Randall, J.E. 1999. Family Serranidae. pp. 2442-2548 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 2069-2790 pp.

Hutchins, B & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia - Complete Field Guide for Divers and Anglers. Swainston, Perth, Western Australia, 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762                   

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Families Serranidae, Callanthiidae. pp. 528-548 figs 469-485 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Leadbitter, D. 1992. Special Fauna (B) Black Cod Survey. In: Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific, by The Australian Museum. Kowari 3:103-106. ANPWS, Canberra.

Lincoln-Smith, M.P., Bell, J.D., Pollard, D.A. & Russell, B.C. 1989. Catch and effort of competition spearfishermen in Southeastern Australia. Fisheries Research 8: 45-61.

Malcolm, H. & Harasti, D (2010). Baseline data on the distribution and abundance of black cod Epinephelus daemelii at 20 sites in Northern Rivers marine waters. Unpublished Report to the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. NSW Marine Parks Authority.

Marine Parks Authority NSW. 2009. Monitoring distribution and abundance of Black Cod (Epinephelus daemelii) within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park (PSGLMP). Final Report to NSW Department of Primary Industries and Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority. PDF

NSW DPI (2011) Black Cod (Epinephelus daemelii) Recovery Plan. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Threatened Species Unit – Port Stephens Fisheries  Institute.

Oxley W.G., Ayling A.M., Cheal A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine Surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Report produced for Department of the Environment and Heritage. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. pdf

Paulin, C. & Roberts, C. 1992. The Rockpool Fishes of New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

Pogonoski, J. 2005. Black Rockcod. Nature Australia 28(6): 20-21.

Pogonoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation overview and action plan for Australian threatened and potentially threatened marine and estuarine fishes. Environment Australia, Canberra, Australia. 375 pp.

Randall, J.E. & Heemstra, P.C. 1991. Revision of the Indo-Pacific groupers: (Perciformes: Serranidae: Epinephelinae): with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 20: 1-332.

Roughley, T.C. 1916. Fishes of Australia and their Technology. Technical Education Series no. 21. Government of New South Wales, Sydney. 296 pp.

Shuk Man, C. & Ng Wai Chuen (Grouper & Wrasse Specialist Group) 2006. Epinephelus daemelii. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 13 May 2012.

The Fisheries Scientific Committee. Recommendation Epinephelus daemelii - Black Cod. Ref. No. FR4 File No. FSC 99/12. http://www.fisheries.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/5286/Black-Cod-FSC-Recommendation.pdf.

Thomson, J.M. 1977. A Field Guide to the Common Sea and Estuary Fishes of Non-tropical Australia. Collins, Sydney.

van Herwerden L, Klanten OS, Choat JH, Jerry DR and Robbins WD (2009). Connectivity of black cod Epinephelus daemelii between Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs (as measured by population genetic structure based on microsatellites). Final Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Molecular Ecology and Evolutionary Laboratory, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland.

Whitley, G.P. 1937. The Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, South Pacific Ocean. The Australian Zoologist 8(4): 199-231 figs 13-14 ( p. 222, as Epinephelus forsythi)

Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37311077

Behaviour:200 cm TL; 68 kg

Biology:Changes sex

Conservation:EPBC Act Vulnerable; IUCN Near Threatened

Depth:3-50 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map