Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani
The Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani, whose common Spanish name is Baya and local name is Cabrilla, is a member of the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as “cabrillas” and “garropas” in Mexico.
The Gulf Grouper is gray-brown in color, and is characterized by its “grouper-like” appearance, with the fourth and fifth dorsal spines being the longest, and when alive, a series of solid, irregular blotches radiating out from the face area. They have tails that are straight or slightly concave, rounded notched gill covers, and the fins that are tipped in white.
The Gulf Grouper is found within rocky reefs and in kelp beds with large adults being common in shallow water at depths between 25 and 150 feet. They reach a maximum length of 198 cm (6 and-a-half feet) and up to 91 kg (200 pounds) in weight. They are voracious ambush predators feeding on small fish. The Gulf Grouper has a slow growth rate reaching maturity at age of six or seven years. They are aggregating spawners with females significantly outnumbering males indicative that they are protogynous hermaphrodites changing mid-life from females to males. They can be confused with the Broomtail Grouper, Mycteroperca xenarcha (second thru seventh dorsal spines of equal length). In Mexican waters the Gulf Grouper is found along the Pacific Coast of Baja and throughout the Sea of Cortez; they are absent from along the coast of the mainland coast south to Mazatlán.
The Gulf Grouper, due to its size, strength, and food value is an intense object of game fishing. It is considered an excellent food fish and is sold commercially in numerous local fish markets commanding high prices and is one of the important food fishes of the Sea of Cortez.
The Gulf Grouper is currently considered to be an ENDANGERED SPECIES due to population decline of at least 50% over the past 30 years, directly attributed to intensive recreational fishing pressure. There is also a significant decline in the size of the fish boated. This fishing pressure is likely to increase along with associated reef habitat destruction as greater investment in recreational fisheries occurs. It is a large species with high longevity and is caught at heavily fished spawning aggregations, both factors that make the species particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Historically it has dominated the rocky-reef fish community in terms of biomass comprising 45% of the total finfish production in the late 50′s to current levels of less than 1%. A generic table for Grouper that allows for the determination of the weight of fish from its length has been included with the hope that perhaps some fish can be handled as “catch and releases.”