Peacock grouper not on the menu

June 1st, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Research News  |  3 Comments

peacock grouper

Peacock grouper

In an attempt to create new fisheries, more than 2,000 individuals of the peacock grouper from French Polynesia were intentionally released in Hawaiian waters during the 1950s.

The peacock grouper became established and populations expanded on Hawaiian reefs, but local consumers lost interest after a number of cases of human neurological disease were traced to ciguatera poisoning linked to the species.

In the meantime, peacock grouper populations have declined where they are commercially important and ciguatera free.

As part of their University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa doctoral research, Jan Dierking, in zoology, and Cara Campora, in cell and molecular biology, revisited the peacock grouper. The research was funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and UH’s Hawaiʻi Cooperative Fishery Research Unit and published in the April 2009 issue of Pacific Science.

The researchers took samples from nearly 300 fish, hoping to find patterns in geographical location, size or condition that would allow them to predict which populations or individuals were safe for human consumption. They found lower rates of toxic fish on Oʻahu reefs compared to the Big Island, and slightly higher concentrations of the toxin in larger fish.

Unfortunately, however, the wide variability in toxicity levels for individual fish precludes identification of safe-to-fish zones or safe-to-eat catch. A commercial ciguatera test kit exists, they note, but isn’t economically viable at a cost of nearly $11 per fish.

For now, the peacock grouper is likely to stay on the reef and off the dinner plate in Hawaiʻi.

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  1. Nathaniel hunt says:

    February 25th, 2010at 6:03 pm(#)

    Hi, I have been noticing at my local spots that there has been a dramatic increase of roy.I also have noticed the moana and kumu have been decreasing. I am worried about our reefs and the fish we eat. I am trying to get the community of maui to do something about this. i want to through a contest to try and motivate the people to get rid of this invasive species, this also goes for the taipa. I was wondering if you guys had any suggestions,

  2. Daniel says:

    March 10th, 2010at 8:25 pm(#)

    There is an annual contest that was created by Darrell Tanaka called the Maui Roi Roundup for just that, to help the reef by removing invasive species. Their efforts have had dramatic effects and not just on Maui, either. If you’re on Maui you can look him up or contact NOAA. I donate roi for research all the time and they are often donated to me by fellow spearfishermen.

  3. Keahi says:

    August 31st, 2011at 12:47 pm(#)

    Hi I’m a senior who is doing a English project on invasive fish in Hawaii, would you happen to know a place I could donate the fish, roi, taape, toau, for eating or for farming or any other sort, in the waianae cost area. My email is
    Thank you