Olive Grouper, Epinephelus cifuentesi
The Olive Grouper, Epinephelus cifuentesi, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla gallina and is known locally as cabrilla, cerduda or garropa, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. Globally, there are one hundred species in the genus Epinephelus, eleven of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Olive Groupers are characterized by beefy and disproportionately wide bodies with uniform gray-brown, with green tinges. The key to identification is the second of their 11 dorsal spines, is the longest. They have 27 to 31 gill rakers, a complete lateral line with a smooth arch extending into the caudal base, and a small mustache on their upper lip. Their fins are darker than their body and their anal fin has a strong second spine. The juveniles have a dark line above their jaw.
The Olive Groupers are found within patch reefs that are adjacent to sandy bottoms at depths between 120 and 400 feet. They reach a maximum length of 100 cm (39 inches) and 9 kg (20 pounds) in weight. They are a rare, relatively deep water species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Olive Grouper was unknown in Mexican waters until I caught one off the Gordo Bank in 2006. They were previously only known to the Coco and Galapagos Islands and in the coastal waters of Costa Rica and Ecuador. Their documented range in Mexican waters of the Pacific is thus very limited.
The Olive Grouper can be confused with the Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius (nine dorsal spines, third, fourth, and fifth being the longest), the Star-studded Grouper, Hyporthodus niphobles (eleven dorsal spines, second being the longest), and the Tenspine Grouper, Hyporthodus exsul(ten dorsal spines; 24-27 gill rakers).
The Olive Groupers, although somewhat rare, are considered an excellent food fish.
Olive Grouper, Epinephelus cifuentesi, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, May 2017. Length: 15.2 cm (6.0 inches).