The Sailfin Snapper

Symphorichthys spilurus


Photo: P.L. Colin

Description and Distribution
Sailfin snapper, otherwise known as blue-lined sea bream, has a distribution in the Indo-Pacific. It is often found in the western Pacific, from the Ryukyu Islands to New Caledonia and the Great Barrier Reef, including Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, Palau, Philippines, Sulawesi (Celebes), and Tonga. The species is also known from the eastern Indian Ocean from Rowley Shoals and off Broome, Western Australia (1,5).

S. spilurus is not commonly found and little is known of its biology. It is a commercial fish mostly targeted for the aquarium trade because it is particularly attractive as a juvenile. It has distinct lateral lines running parallel from the eyes to the tail (black stripes as juvenile and blue lines against yellowish body when matured). It also possesses long pectoral fin, reaching level of anus and soft rays of dorsal and anal fins produced into filaments. The maximum reported length of the species was 60 cm (TL), while generally they grow to 50 cm (TL) (1,2,5)

Preferred Habitat
S. spilurus is reef-associated, found on coral reefs or over sand bottoms in the vicinity of coral reefs. It is usually seen singly and normally occurs at depths of 5 to 60 m (1,5).

Life History
S. spilurusis a moderate-sized carnivorous species. It feeds mainly on sand-dwelling molluscs and crustaceans, also on fishes. It undergoes considerable ontogenetic changes in body shape and colouration between the juvenile and adult stage (1,2,5,7).

Spawning Aggregations

S. spilurus is found forming spawning aggregations along seaward reefs. Reported transient spawning aggregations were observed in spring (March, April, May) in Papua New Guinea during third quarter lunar phase and at least one aggregation is known from Palau (3,5,6,8, P. Colin, pers. comm..)

stampPhoto: Yvonne Sadovy

S. spilurus has a very high commercial value. It is especially favoured in the aquarium trade. This species is fished mainly with hand-lines and spearguns. It is occasionally seen in markets and is also being traded as aquarium fish. In Papua New Guinea, where spear fishermen have exploited an aggregation of this species for several decades, several spear fishers working together can remove 20 fish in an afternoon (3,5,6).


No information. There is no reported research or commercial culture of the species.

Conservation & Management

There is no known conservation or management activity targeted towards this species and it has not been evaluated under for the IUCN red list. Limited information indicates that aggregations are little fished and there is no indication of changes in catch rates. The species has moderate vulnerability and medium resilience towards fishery. More information is needed to assess the species (5,6).



1. Allen G.R. (1985) Snappers of the World. An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Lutjanid Species known to Date. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 6. FAO. Rome. Pp. 208, Pl. I-XXVII.

2. Anderson W.D.Jr. & Allen G.R. (2001) Lutjanidae. Jobfishes. p. 2840-2918. In: K.E. Carpenter and V. Niem (eds.) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 5. Bony fishes part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae). FAO, Rome

3. Domeier M.L. & Colin P.L. (1997) Tropical reef fish spawning aggregations: defined and reviewed. Bulletin of Marine Science, 60(3):698-726.

4. FAO-FIES (2008) Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Information System (ASFIS) species list.

5. Fishbase (2009)

6. Hamilton R. (2003) A report on the current status of exploited reef fish aggregations in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea - Choiseul, Ysabel, Bouganville and Manus Provinces, Western Pacific Fisher Survey Series: Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations. Volume 1.

7. Leis J.M & Bray D.J (1995) Larval development in the Lutjanid subfamily paradicichtyinae (pisces): the genera symphorus and symphorichthys. Bulletin of Marine Science, 56(2): 418-433.

8. Martinez-Andrade F. (2003). A comparison of life histories and ecological aspects among snappers (Pisces: lutjanidae)