Clipperton Grouper

Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonensis

The Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonensis, whose common Spanish name is Cabrilla de Clipppeton and known locally as Cabrilla, is a member of the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as “cabrillas” and “garropas” in Mexico. The Clipperton Grouper was named for the location it was first discovered, the French owned uninhabited Clipperton Island, located 1,120 km (695 miles) southwest of mainland Mexico.

The Clipperton Grouper has a pale grey to light brown robust compressed body and is covered with white spots and flecks throughout. They have eleven dorsal spines and all of the soft fins have red margins. The anal and caudal fins are rounded. They have a small black saddle on the upper part of the caudal fin base. They are solitary predators and feed primarily on crustaceans at night and on small fishes during the day.

The Clipperton Grouper are found over rocky bottoms at depths up to 330 feet. They reach a maximum length of 61 cm (24 inches) and 2 kg (4.4 pounds) in weight. They are an exceedingly rare species and very little is known their about behavioral patterns.

The Clipperton Grouper is a very easy identification due to its body shape and coloration with one exception. They are of very similar in size, shape and habitat and easily confused with the Flag Cabrilla, Epinephelus labriformis (prominent mid-body spotting, prominent black spot on the upper part of caudal fin base). In Mexican waters the Clipperton Grouper is found from Cabo Pulmo to Todos Santos around the tip of the Baja and around the Alijos Rocks and Revillagigedos oceanic islands. The population around the tip of Baja has been established by fish we have caught and have been given.

The Clipperton Grouper is exceedingly rare, and therefore of limited interest, being first reported in the literature in 1999 and has a very limited distribution range.

Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonensis: Fish caught in 50-foot water, 15 miles north of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, June 2008. Size: 40 cm (16 inches), on a Sabiki rig.  Identification courtesy of Dr. Matt Craig and reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., both of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonensis: Fish caught in 50-foot water, 15 miles north of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, June 2008. Size: 40 cm (16 inches), on a Sabiki rig. Identification courtesy of Dr. Matt Craig and reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., both of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.