Stinker’s Fishin’: Protect the Blue Groper

Champion local fisher Paul Lennon with a magnificent blue groper. The fish was immediately released back into the water.

MUCH has been written lately on the Eastern Blue Groper, which has been the NSW emblem since 1996.

Attention has been drawn to the fish by photographs of a spearfishermen who speared a blue groper in Sydney.

Spearing groper has been outlawed since 1969. Recreational fishers have been permitted to take a limit of two groper since 1974.

The timid and inquisitive fish, which can live up to 70 years, has a population range from Hervey Bay in Queensland to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. Locally, the shallow reefs and islands off Port Stephens are perfect habitat for the groper which thrive in excellent numbers from Birubi south to Broughton Island.

The life cycle of the fascinating fish commences with all juveniles being female with a brown to greenish brown colouring.

Into adulthood, females become reddish to reddish brown.

I have seen females that are strikingly red.

Later in their lifecycle some females change sex and develop into blue groper, which are all male and are recognisable by their deep navy to cobalt blue colour.

It is suggested that if a blue groper is taken from an area a dominant female will change sex to replace it.

Interesting to learn that barramundi also change sex, with all large fish being female.

I’m sure that NSW Fisheries have heard the public outcry and will consider changing blue groper regulations in the future.

Could I suggest that a similar ruling apply to groper as does to flathead – that being an upper size limit. In the case of dusky flathead, it is illegal to take a fish over 70 cm.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

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