The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of the six volunteer Commissions of IUCN - The World Conservation Union, a global membership organization that brings together governments and conservation organizations. SSC's vision is "A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity." There are currently more than 120 Specialist Groups within the SSC, including six that focus on fishes.

The Grouper/Wrasse Specialist Group was established in 1998/9 because of growing conservation concerns for vulnerable species in these two teleost families. Groupers (Serranidae) and Wrasses (Labridae) are amongst the most highly valued of all reef-associated fishes and are being increasingly targeted globally for human consumption, and as marine ornamentals. As one example, a burgeoning trade in live reef food fish in SE Asia has placed particularly heavy pressure on populations of several favoured species, particularly in Indonesia and the Philippines, and, increasingly into the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Even traditional fisheries, especially those that are developing export markets, have reached, or threaten to reach, levels of intensity that are unsustainable for this vulnerable group of fishes.

Groupers and wrasses are largely dependent on rocky and coral reefs. Many are long-lived and slow-growing. Despite the fact that most species produce large numbers of eggs each year, rates of population growth are slow and they can only withstand light levels of fishing pressure. Their high value, however, makes them a particularly appealing target. Fishing is not only directed towards adults, juveniles are also taken as ornamentals and for mariculture. Indeed, in some areas millions of juveniles are targetted annually to supply the mariculture industry.

Many the larger species of groupers and wrasses aggregate to spawn for short periods and at specific locations each year. The practice of targeting spawning aggregations, both in the western tropical Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific, is considered to be a particular threat because such aggregations evidently represent all annual reproductive activity. These aggregations are vulnerable bottlenecks in the life history of many species and need to be protected or managed (www.scrfa.org).

The various pressures on these two families have led to marked declines in several species and, in 1996, grouper and wrasse species represented 10% of all marine fishes included in the IUCN Red List; fully 50% of commercially important species listed.

The aim of establishing this Specialist Group was to bring together a small, but active, group of specialists, spanning biology, fisheries, socio-economics and conservation, to focus on issues related to these highly valued and vulnerable species. For many, there are few data on their biology, fishery or conservation status. We need to identify what is known, as well as what we need to know and how we might gather such information, to assess current status and exploitation patterns. The ultimate goal of this group is to reduce the need for concern for threatened species by identifying and promoting appropriate patterns of resource use and management. Actions include a focus of attention on vulnerable life history stages, such as spawning aggregations or nursery areas, and promotion of marine reserves to protect spawning biomass and critical habitats. Focused campaigns are being developed for the most vulnerable species, such as the Humphead wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, of the Indo-Pacific specially (www.humpheadwrasse.info).

The Specialist Group in the current triennium has 20 members from 16 countries (see below). We work on species assessments, develop initiatives to address conservation concerns for specific cases, provide information and advice as needed, prepare a small, informal, newsheets, and strive to improve collection of information and monitoring of trade of commercially important species. Given how little is known of most species that we cover, and the general lack of attention being paid to conservation of reef species in general, we are developing species summaries and a campaign to raise awareness on those that are most threatened.

GWSG (2009-2012) Membership

Dr. Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson – Co-Chair, University of Hong Kong (China)
Dr. Matthew Craig – Co-Chair, University of Puerto Rico (USA)

Working group

Dr. Pedro Afonso – University of the Azores (Portugal)
Dr. Alfonso Aguilar – Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan (Mexico)
Dr. Áthila Bertoncini – Universidade Federal de São Carlos / ECOMAR (Brazil)
Dr. David Bellwood – James Cook University (Australia)
Dr. Monica Brick Peres – Ministry of Environment (Brazil)
Dr. Thierry Brule - CINVESTAV-IPN Unidad Merida (Mexico)
Dr. Annadel Salvio Cabanban – Consultant (Philippines)
Mr. Li Shu Chen – National Museum of Marine Science and Technology (Taiwan)
Mr. William Cheung – University of East Anglia (UK)
Dr. Howard Choat – James Cook University (Australia)
Dr. Pat Colin – Coral Reef Research Foundation (Palau)
Dr. Andy Cornish – World Wide Fund for Nature (Hong Kong)
Dr. Brad Erisman – Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USA)
Dr. David Fairclough - Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research (Australia)
Dr. Sean Fennessay – Oceanographic Research Institute (South Africa)
Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres - Ocean Research & Conservation Association (USA)
Ms. Graciela Garcia-Moliner – Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Puerto Rico)
Dr. Edwin Grandcourt – Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (UAE)
Dr. Phil Heemstra – South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (South Africa)
Dr. Chris Koenig – Florida State University (USA)
Dr. Michel Kulbicki – Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (France)
Dr. Min Liu – University of Hong Kong (China)
Mr. Rob Myers – Coral Graphics (USA)
Dr. Beatrice Padovani-Ferreira – Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Brazil)
Dr. Joao Pedro da Silva Ramos Barreiras – Universidade dos Azores (Portugal)
Dr. Dave Pollard – Ichthyologist (Australia)
Dr. Kevin Rhodes – University of Hawaii (USA)
Mr. Jan Robinson – Seychelles Fishing Authority (Seychelles)
Dr. Luiz Rocha – University of Texas (USA)
Dr. Barry Russell – Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Australia)
Dr. Melita Samoilys – CORDIO East Africa (Kenya)
Prof. Kwang-Tsao Shao – Research Centre for Biodiversity (Taiwan)
Dr. Mauricio Hostim-Silva – Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (Brazil)
Mr. Felipe Sosa-Cordero – Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Mexico)
Mr. Sunti Suharti – Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Indonesia)
Mr. Armin N Tuz Sulub – Ichthyological Laboratory, CINVESTAV-IPN (Mexico)
Dr. Robert Warner – University of California, Santa Barbara (USA)
Mr. Being Yeeting – Secretariat of the Pacific Community (New Caledonia)