The Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) is also known as the Twinspot Snapper, the Two-spot Red snapper, the Red Bass and the Bohar Snapper. They are common inhabitants of rubble areas and reef tops in Tanzania but are becoming less common, particularly the larger specimens.
RED SNAPPER APPEARANCE
Red Snapper have a typical snapper shape and as juveniles pictured above, the body is a silver color with a black bar across the eye, black lines on the upper and lower caudal anal and dorsal fins and two very distinctive white spots in the rear upper dorsal area. At night they assume a darker color as can be seen below.
As Red Snapper grow so the white spots disappear and the body becomes more of a silvery red colour. The pelvic fins are a reddish colour and the anal , caudal and the rear of the dorsal fin have dark markings on them. When they are large, there is a very distinctive groove ahead of the eye which runs downwards towards the nostrils. The largest specimens we have seen in Tanzanian waters have been around 40 cm but they grow up to 90 cm. The world record is a fish of 15 kilograms caught off Rodrigues Island in 2016.
TWO-SPOT RED SNAPPER IN THE WILD
Although the juvenile Red Snapper are seen quite often in Tanzanian waters, the larger adults are becoming more and more rare. Red snapper are very good eating and the species is heavily over fished. Given that they only mature at around 9 years, this species is highly vulnerable to over exploitation.
The juveniles are often seen in protected bays in shallower waters. The adults are usually seen off the edges of the reef and sometimes on the reef usually from 15 meters downwards. Research on the Great Barrier Reef shows that they live up to 56 years and a specimen of 55 years was found in the Seychelles. The larger specimens are thought to live much deeper and they have been documented down to 180 meters. We have seen large specimens at around 40 meters off the east coast of Mafia Island. They seem to sit deeper than that and come up to inspect divers.
Red Snapper are widely distributed across the tropical Indo-Pacific, from East Africa up to the Red Sea and across to the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan and down to North Eastern Australia and across to the mid Pacific Islands. We have seen them on reef tops and on rubble areas down to depths of approximately 30 meters.
RED SNAPPER DIET
Red Snapper have a varied diet, feeding on fishes and crustaceans. Their diets vary with maturity and locally available prey items.
Red Snapper are slow growing fish and only reach maturity at nine years. The adults group spawn in large numbers and the eggs which are round and transparent float off in the current. After undergoing a pelagic stage the juveniles make their way back to the reefs. Group spawning usually takes place in areas of strong current.
RED SNAPPER MIMICRY
Juveniles have been observed to mimic members of the Chromis Genus such as Chromis ternatensis , Chromis flavomaculata and Chromis weberi. These plankton eating damsels shoal in large numbers and the juvenile Lutjanus bohar join the shoals and use them to get closer to smaller fishes which they prey on. The Chromis tend to shoal in size related shoals and the Lutjanus bohar pick a shoal of similar sized Red Snapper fish to blend into.
Red Snapper are heavily exploited commercially. In Tanzania they are mainly caught by fishermen in traps and on lines and are occasionally netted in the shallows. They are usually sold fresh and are a highly sought after fish in restaurants. They are extremely tasty to eat. Being a very slow growing fish only obtaining maturity at nine years, they are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Because local fishermen are able to track their group spawning locations and times this impacts heavily on the breeding population.