Cephalopholis hemistiktos | UAE National Red List of Marine Species: Reef-building corals, cartilaginous fishes and select bony fishes

Cephalopholis hemistiktos | (Rüppell, 1830)
Countries in Assessment
United Arab Emirates
Country ISO code(s)
Does the assessment cover a marine EEZ area(s)?
Scope (Assessment)
Taxonomic Group
Taxonomic Group Level 2
Assessed taxon level
Taxonomic Notes
Recent genetic and demographic evidence suggests that the population of Cephalopholis hemistiktos in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden may be a distinct species from the population in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (Priest et al. 2016).
Taxon distribution as listed in assessment
This species occurs throughout UAE waters. Globally, it has a disjunct distribution in the northwestern Indian Ocean, with one subpopulation in the Red Sea to Socotra Island (Yemen) and northern Somalia, and the second subpopulation in northern Oman (Sea of Oman), the Arabian Gulf and Pakistan. Recent research suggests these may represent two distinct species (Priest et al. 2016); however, until a formal description is published, both subpopulations are treated as one species. Its depth range is 2 to 55 metres.
Habitats and Ecology
Ecological system type
Terrestrial system
Freshwater system
Marine system
Habitat details as listed in assessment
This species inhabits coral reefs and adjacent areas (Carpenter et al. 1997a). In the Red Sea, it is more often found on patchy open reef areas rather than on well-developed coral reefs. In Oman, it is abundant, but patchily distributed on shallow coastal reefs and rocky reef substrata (J. McIlwain pers. comm. 2015). Its maximum total length is 35 cm. It is a diurnal, ambush predator that feeds throughout the day on fishes and crustaceans (Craig et al. 2011). This is a monogamous species and pairs jointly defend a territory of up to 62 m'² (Shpigel and Fishelson 1991). Spawning occurs off Abu Dhabi from July to November and the mean age and total length at first sexual maturity for femalesis 13 years and 25.3 cm (Grandcourt et al. 2013). These data are not available for the Red Sea population. Longevity is at least 28 years in Oman, 24 years in the Red Sea (Priest et al. 2016) and 20 years in the Arabian Gulf (Grandcourt et al. 2013). We utilized the following data to estimate the generation length: natural mortality of 0.21 year<sup>-1</sup> and age at first maturity of 13 years (Grandcourt et al. 2013). The generation length equation (1/natural mortality) + age at first reproduction), estimates the generation length as 17.8 years, with three generation lengths being 53.4 years. However, this may be modified if the age at first maturity is found to be an overestimate.
Is there a map available in assessment?
Assessed status
Asessment status in full
Critically Endangered
Assessment status abreviation
Assessment status criteria
Assessment rationale/justification
This reef-associated species occurs throughout UAE waters. It is a long-lived species (26 years) that reaches sexual maturity late in life (13 years), and the generation length is estimated at about 17 years. A stock assessment conducted in 2013 in the Gulf considered this species overexploited. It was common in UAE fish markets from 1980s until about 1995, but declined thereafter. Despite fishing effort remaining at a stable level, catch of this species has remained very low to the present day. Effort is likely to increase for this species, especially as larger grouper species, such as Epinephelus coioides, continue to be depleted in this region. In addition, due to severe declines in Gulf coral reefs, this species may also be impacted by habitat degradation. Based on fish market observations, scientific survey data and catch data, it is inferred that this species has declined by at least 50% and likely more than 80% in the UAE since about 1995, or over the past one and a half generation lengths (29 years). Fishing effort is expected to remain the same or increase in the future time period over the next one and a half generations. The status of population(s) outside the UAE is not well-understood, though it is also heavily exploited elsewhere, especially off Oman and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it is listed as Critically Endangered A2bcd+4bcd. Improvements in fisheries management are needed.
About the assessment
Assessment year
Assessors/contributors/reviewers listed
UAE National Red List Workshop
Affliation of assessor(s)/contributors/reviewers listed on assessment
Assessor affiliation specific
Criteria system
Criteria system specifics
IUCN v3.1 + Regional Guidelines v4.0
Criteria system used
Criteria Citation
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1, Second edition. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. iv + 32pp pp. And IUCN. 2012. Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National Levels: Version 4.0. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iii + 41pp.
Endemic to region
Endemism Notes
Is an endemic?: Not_assigned
Threats listed in assessment
Overexploitation is a major threat. In addition, corals in the UAE and Arabian Gulf have severely declined due to the increasing frequency of mass bleaching events caused by rising water temperatures, which is a consequence of climate change, as well as pervasive coastal development (Riegl et al. 2018, Burt et al. 2019).
Conservation Measures

Conservation measures:
Conservation measures notes:
Required conservation measures:

Scientific Name Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Cephalopholis hemistiktos Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae Cephalopholis