29 June 2010

Giant endangered grouper served in Singapore restaurant

An endangered Queensland grouper is proudly caught and served by Mr Johnny Tan, the owner and chef of 2nd Kitchen restaurant in Balestier Road. According to media reports, the 150 kg 2m long fish is so big that it had to be brought in with a forklift.

The fish was described as an "underwater gladiator" that clearly fought for its life as it "took nine fishermen one hour to capture". It was caught in the waters off Sabah. The fish represents a S$15,000 profit for the restaurant but an immeasurable loss to biodiversity as the fish is rare in the wild, and needs to grow to 1m or more before it can reproduce.

According to the IUCN Red List, the Queensland grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) is the largest reef-dwelling fish in the world and was listed as Vulnerable in the mid-1990s by the IUCN in recognition of "its vulnerability with respect to exploitation".

Here's more about the fish, according to the IUCN:

"Being such a large predator, it is rare even in areas unexploited by fishing and it has nearly been extirpated in areas where it has been heavily fished for the live reef food-fish trade; this is a trade in live fish for food which is centered in Southeast Asia and especially China and Chinese communities."

"The approximate size of sexual maturation for E. lanceolatus is 105–110 cm total length, which means that all smaller individuals and maybe some larger individuals are consumed before they reach sexual maturity. Localised depletions may be a consequence of focused local fishing activity and further pressures are likely to be placed on this species in other parts of its range (e.g., Australia or other Southeast Asian countries) once Indonesian populations are reduced."

Among the major threats to this fish identified by the IUCN:

"Commercial and recreational fishing activities, including the live reef fish trade and the marine aquarium fish trade, have the potential to adversely affect populations of this species."

"It is likely that since a large area of reef is required to maintain such a large predator, its numbers are typically low, even in unexploited areas; this is consistent with underwater observations. In many places, it has all but disappeared, due primarily to spearfishermen. Since the species takes decades to grow, and juveniles are also relatively uncommon, there is little chance of giant individuals reappearing in unprotected areas."

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