Groupers are large predatory coral reef fish that are critical to coral reef health. However, they grow very slowly, reproduce late in life and form spawning aggregations which are conspicuous to fishers, and so are naturally very exceptionally vulnerable to fishing.

In the Maldives, they are fished and exported to markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of the “Live reef fish trade”. The trade caters to the upper class in these countries who place a high value on eating live fish, specifically grouper. According to the Maldives Marine Research Institute, 70-90 percent of all groupers caught in the Maldives are undersized.

In 2016, Blue Marine Foundation was asked by the Maldives Government to collect evidence to help improve management of the Maldives commercial export grouper fishery.

As part of this project, Blue Marine carried out a combination of scientific analysis of grouper reproduction and extensive interviews with over 100 Maldivian fishermen as well as surveys of spawning aggregation sites. The findings from the research were presented to the Government in 2018 to justify the need for immediate action in the form of improved management. This is crucial to prevent the Maldivian grouper fishery from collapsing and subsequently causing fishermen a loss of livelihood and income from this valuable resource.

In 2021, our scientific recommendations for minimum landing size limits for groupers were incorporated into law in the Grouper Fishery Management plan.