University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
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Snapper Information

Snappers belong to the order Perciformes in the Lutjanidae family. There are at least 17 different genera and 112 different species of snapper fish. Snappers are mainly a marine fish, rarely being found in estuaries. They will enter freshwater to feed though. More of a tropical and subtropical fish, many species are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, especially among reefs and mangroves. They’re recognizable by their single, long, continuous or notched dorsal fin. Their bodies are robust and elongated with a tail that may either be forked or blunt. They may grow up to 2-3 feet in length. There are many colors and patterns associated with snapper fish, from gray to green to red, some with stripes even like the yellowtail snapper. Their mouths are large with sharp canine teeth. They prey primarily on crustaceans and other fish, but several species are known to feed off of plankton. Most tropical snappers feed at night.

Snappers are often times schooling fish. That may make it easier at times for fisherman to harvest good quantities of them at a time. Snappers are a valuable and well-known fish food, which makes them susceptible to overharvesting. The only danger to eating snappers is the few species such as dog snappers of the Atlantic that are none to contain toxic substances. This can cause ciguatera, food poisoning specifically derived from eating fish. It’s not enough of a deterrent though, so the only real way to restore low population levels is by placing regulations on snapper fishing. This could be requiring that snappers that only reach a certain size may be harvested, or only allowing snapper fishing during a certain time of the year.