Yellowedge Grouper

Yellowedge Grouper, Hyporthodus flavolimbatus

The Yellowedge Grouper, Hyporthodus flavolimbatus, whose common Spanish is mero extraviado, is a species in the Grouper or Ephinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Yellowfinned Grouper. Globally, there are fourteen species in the genus Hyporthodus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, four in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Yellowedge Groupers have robust compressed oval bodies that are deepest at the origin of their dorsal fin. Their head and body are yellowish-brown to gray-brown and transition to white ventrally. Their eyes are bright yellow. The edges of their anal, caudal, dorsal, and pectoral fins have yellow tips. They have a prominent blue line that runs from their eyes to the corner of their gill covers and a grid of white spots on their sides. Juveniles are dark brown with a blue line that runs from their eyes to their gill covers, a grid of 7 columns of 4 white spots on their body, a shallow dark brown blotch on their upper caudal fin base, dark anal and pelvic fins, and yellow edges on their caudal and dorsal fins. They have a large terminal mouth equipped with depressed teeth on the sides and roof of the mouth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 9 rays; their caudal fin is convex in juveniles and straight to concave in adults; their dorsal fin has 11 spines, with the third or the fourth being the longest, and 13 to 15 rays; and their pectoral fins are under their pelvic fins. They have 23 to 25 gill rakers and are covered with rough scales.

The Yellowedge Groupers are found demersal as solitary individuals at depths between 300 and 1,125 feet over soft muddy bottoms and take shelter in adjacent rocky areas and excavated burrows. Juveniles are found inshore in waters as shallow as 100 feet. They reach a maximum of 1.14 meters (3 feet 9 inches) in length and 18.6 kg (41 pounds) in weight. They feed on a wide variety of invertebrates (including brachyuran crabs) and fish. They are considered top-level predators and adults are subject to limited predation. Reproduction occurs as sequential hermaphroditism with all fish born as females and changing to males around age twenty-two. Females release pelagic eggs in multiple batches and larvae are pelagic. They are long-lived and have a lifespan of up to eighty-five years. They are considered an essential component of the ocean’s food chain because the excavations and burrows they create provide structure and habitat for a wide variety of marine life.

In Mexican waters the Yellowedge Groupers are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

The Yellowedge Grouper is an easy fish to identify due to its yellow-tipped fins and the grid of white spots on its sides and cannot be confused with any other species.

The Yellowedge Groupers are considered one of the more important species of groupers in Mexican deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and a focus of handline, longline (up to 1,200 hooks per set), and gill net commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. They are considered a quality food fish and sold fresh commercially. They are caught at levels of up to 3.5 metric tons (8,000 pounds) annually in the Gulf of Mexico with the majority of the catch being older and larger males. The size and age of the landed fish have diminished significantly over the past decade. They are currently listed as Vulnerable, due to significant declines in their population throughout their range. Intensified fishing pressure occurs during aggregation and spawning windows with larger males primarily removed from residual populations. They are a long-lived and non-migratory hermaphroditic species that is very slow to mature. Efforts to regulate the fishery in the United States are in place and include inshore water closures, bans on fishing with bottom gear, establishment of no fishing marine reserves, seasonal closures, and bag limits, however, such controls are absent from other parts of their known range. They are also prone to habitat destruction caused by trawls targeting more abundant species found at similar depths including various Groupers and Tilefish. At present this species is extinct in some parts of its historical range and scientific monitoring of its status throughout most of its current range is inadequate.

Yellowedge Grouper, Hyporthodus flavolimbatus. Fish caught out from waters off  Pulley Ridge, Florida, August 2014. Length: 66 cm (26 inches). Weight: 3.6 kg (8.0 pounds). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.