Despite attempts to highlight the importance of research and management of spawning aggregations in groupers and other reef fishes in eastern Africa through a MASMA funded project which ended in 2012 (Robinson & Samoilys 2013), further research and efforts to protect and manage spawning aggregations in eastern Africa have been negligible, except in Seychelles. Overexploitation in all types of fisheries remains the major threats to groupers worldwide. With few exceptions, species identified as threatened a decade ago are not better managed today. Monitoring is particularly ineffective. If it occurs, groupers are often all lumped together, or even more broadly as “demersal fishes”.
There are few examples of localised species recovery, the most notable being the Critically Endangered Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, where research, strong political will and enforcement has led to recovery of spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands; though inadequate to change its global CR threat status. Similar recovery of spawning aggregations through full protection of aggregation sites in Papua New Guinea is also reported for the VU Epinephelus polyphekadion (Marbled or camouflage grouper) and Epinephelus fuscoguttatus (Brown-marbled grouper).

It is time for governments to recognise the multi-million dollar value of grouper fisheries and their food benefits, as well as the ecosystem role these species play. This recognition will lead to better monitoring and management. In the WIO we have an opportunity to identify flagship groupers for targeted research and monitoring and so inform management to restore populations to their former healthy state. I would suggest we start with any of the Epinephelus and Plectropomus species illustrated above.