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Advances in the aquatic sciences

Demography of a large exploited grouper, Plectropomus laevis: Implications for fisheries management

Michelle R. Heupel A F , Ashley J. Williams B , David J. Welch B C , Campbell R. Davies D , Samantha Adams B , Gary Carlos E and Bruce D. Mapstone D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

B Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

C Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, PO Box 1085, Oonoonba, Qld 4811, Australia.

D CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

E Marine Research Laboratory, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 49, Tas. 7001, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(2) 184-195
Submitted: 16 March 2009  Accepted: 28 July 2009   Published: 25 February 2010


Species in the coral trout complex Plectropomus spp. are some of the most desired and exploited in the Indo-Pacific, although data are limited for most species. Demographic parameters of blue-spot coral trout, Plectropomus laevis, were estimated on the basis of specimens collected from five regions of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, Australia, between 1995 and 2005 to define demography and population status over a broad range. In total, 1249 individuals were collected to estimate growth, mortality and reproductive parameters. Growth parameters based on the von Bertalanffy model were K = 0.096 year–1, L = 1159 mm fork length (FL) and the best-fit model suggested non-asymptotic growth over the size and age ranges represented in the sample. Maximum age was 16 years, total mortality was estimated at 0.39 (±0.031), and estimated size and age at first maturity were 299 mm FL (range: 299–872) and at 1 year (range: 1–6.5), respectively, with the size range over which sex change occurred at 460–872 mm FL. Population parameters and available relative abundance estimates indicated that long-term sustainable harvest rates of P. laevis will be lower than those for P. leopardus and species-specific size-based management measures are necessary to ensure the species is not overfished.

Additional keywords: coral reef, coral trout, demography, fish, growth, tropical fisheries.


All sampling was conducted under permits granted to James Cook University by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and met ethical guidelines for the treatment of animals required by all participating institutions. Funding for the ELF Experiment and related projects was provided by the CRC Reef Research Centre, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (1998–131), the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and James Cook University. Funding for the collection of additional samples from Torres Strait was provided by the CRC Torres Strait. We thank the commercial fishers Robin Stewart, Mary Petersen, Terry Must, Kim Holland and Mark Bush who participated in the ELF Experiment and Greg Macbeth and Carl D’Aguiar who assisted with samples from Torres Strait. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this manuscript.


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