The snapper and grouper sector comprises the wild and farmed snapper (Lutjanidae family) and grouper (Serranidae family) species. Most snapper and grouper species are coastal demersal fish, generally associated to hard-bottom habitats (rocky or reef areas). Both snapper and grouper are highly valuable fish for the US, European, and some Asian markets. These species are generally traded live, fresh (or chilled), or frozen.
The T75 sector report for snapper and grouper details the sustainability status of the sector. Based on 2014 production data, about 147,000 tonnes (16 percent) of global production are currently considered sustainable or improving, using publicly available information on MSC status and FIP progress ratings reviewed in August 2019.
Engagement with two existing Supply Chain Roundtables (SRs) that focus on Indonesia and Mexico could feasibly move an additional 14 percent of global production into the sustainable or improving categories, which, combined with the current sustainable or improving production, would result in a total of 30 percent.
Please find an overview of production considered in our T75 strategy for the sector here.
The Indonesian Snapper and Grouper SR focuses on the world’s largest suppliers of snapper and grouper, primarily US importers of Indonesian snapper and grouper, although one Indonesia-based supplier (which supplies to domestic retailers) recently joined. While current participation is adequate to allow some forward progress on sustainability, in order to achieve the T75 goals for Indonesia, this SR must expand to include more US-based importers, more Indonesia-based suppliers, and suppliers to other markets in Asia. The mostly artisanal and widely geographically distributed nature of the fisheries requires a co-management approach, which will require investments in basic fisheries management, such as data gathering, capacity building, monitoring, assessments, formal identification, and licensing of fishers, etc. These improvements must be made at a national level to truly effect change. Thus, development of national-level FIPs is a key tool, and two national-level FIPs are currently under development for snapper and grouper in Indonesia.
The Mexican Seafood SR is comprised of US-based importers of Mexican seafood products. The primary goal of the SR is to encourage vendors in Mexico to participate in efforts to improve the national fishery management system in Mexico, but there is also interest in catalyzing improvement efforts for some of the most commonly imported species, including snapper and grouper. The current focus is on snapper and grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Pacific snapper and grouper fishery products largely remain in Mexico and are outside the scope of influence of the current SR membership, but improvement efforts in Pacific fisheries are underway and are being led by domestic Mexican NGOs.
The key to closing the gap to T75 is to successfully engage new markets and production industries, primarily in Southeast Asia. The snapper and grouper aquaculture industries must also be engaged. This is unlikely to occur on a scale large enough to be effective with respect to T75 by 2020.
There are a number of sustainability concerns in this sector, including:
- The status of many snapper and grouper stocks is unknown, particularly in the multispecies small-scale fisheries in developing countries where reporting systems are absent or insufficient. Also, catches of these species are often lumped together for reporting purposes.
- There is a lack of effective management in many nations where snapper and grouper are harvested. The life history characteristics of many snapper and grouper species (e.g., slow growing, late maturing, seasonal spawning aggregations) make them particularly susceptible to overexploitation. National-level policy and management is needed to ensure sustainability of widespread stocks of snapper and grouper.
- Snapper and grouper are caught by a variety of gears: hook and line, bottom longline, spear, traps, gillnets, and trawl. In some regions, certain fishing practices (e.g., the use of dynamite and cyanide) are causing severe negative impacts on habitats and fish stocks. In general, the possible effects of the snapper and grouper fisheries on coral reefs and interactions with the ecosystem are not well understood.
- Snapper and grouper inhabit tropical and subtropical areas where sea turtles also live. Appropriate mitigation and avoidance measures have been developed for some fisheries (e.g., for US Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic longline and hook and line fisheries); however, more studies and bycatch avoidance measures may be required in other regions, especially where less-selective gears (e.g. gillnet, trawl) are still employed.
SFP estimates that the snapper and grouper sector has a total global production of 907,000 tonnes. This is based on FAO data for 2014 and, where data was not complete, such as for Ecuador, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Panama, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Vietnam, estimates on production data from the Sea Around Us project and national statistics reports. In 2014, snapper accounted for 38 percent of production in the sector, while grouper accounted for 62 percent. Farmed snapper and grouper account for approximately 18 percent of production volume, the vast majority of which is grouper (25 percent of grouper production is from aquaculture). Top production countries are Indonesia and China, followed by Malaysia, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and 15 other countries.
Unfortunately, trade data on snapper and grouper is of poor quality and low resolution. Anecdotal information suggests that the vast majority of snapper and grouper production is consumed in markets with limited sustainability action (e.g., Brazil, China, Indonesia), markets that have little or no engagement in sustainability, or markets where there are no existing or planned activities to engage companies (e.g., Malaysia, the Philippines). A much smaller amount is consumed in markets that are highly engaged in sustainability (e.g., the US), where improvements in sourcing would be supported.