Identification guide to live reef fish in Hong Kong’s wet markets

KNOW THE FISH YOU’RE BUYING!

There are so many different kinds of fish species available on the wet markets, do you know them all? Without a structured study, it’s difficult to say exactly what we can find in our wet markets. Particularly for fishes, where different species can look very similar but labelling is often absent or inaccurate, knowing exactly what fish you are buying can be a real challenge!

To help consumers make informed choices when buying fish, we carried out a survey in 2017 to find out what live reef fishes can be commonly found in wet markets. The survey counted a total of more than 110,000 fish individuals in a survey period of only 6 months, including many belonging to species recognized as threatened with extinction under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

After consolidating all the survey’s findings, the 42 most commonly found live reef fish species were selected and compiled into The Identification Guide to Live Reef Fish in Hong Kong’s Wet Markets.

Using this guide, consumers can understand more about the live reef fishes found in local fish markets and are most likely to purchase. For each fish species, the following information are included:

  • Photograph and artistic illustration
  • Length at sexual maturity
  • Names in multiple languages (incl. Chinese and English)
  • Natural distribution ranges
  • IUCN conservation status
  • WWF-HK seafood guide ratings

Learn more about your wet market fishes!

How to choose sustainably in fish markets and wet markets?

We have consulted multiple seafood guides (including the WWF-HK Seafood Guide, Seafood Watch, the Good Fish Guide and Seafood Risk Assessment) to come up with the following tips. Follow them to choose seafood sustainably in the wet market!

1.
Do not buy juvenile fishes

You can determine if a fish is juvenile by its size.

WHY?

Sexually immature fishes have not had a chance to reproduce. For every sexually immature fish eaten, there is one less reproducing fish in the ocean.

See here: The Identification Guide to Live Reef Fish in Hong Kong’s Wet Markets

2.
Ask your fish seller questions

  • What is the species?
  • Where is it from?
  • Is the fish farmed or wild-caught?

If you have this information, you can then use seafood guides to verify if the species is recommended or avoided.

See here: WWF-HK Seafood Guide

3.
Follow recommendations from seafood guides

We have consulted several ones and combined their recommendations below.

 

Learn more about the ratings
Learn more about the IUCN red list of threatened species

Think Twice
Avoid
Not Assessed
Lutjanus argentimaculatus
Indo-West Pacific
Mangrove red snapper
Think Twice
Length
53 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Lutjanus stellatus
Northwest Pacific
Star snapper
Think Twice
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Mugil cephalus
Coastal water of tropical, subtropical and temperate zones of all oceans
Flathead grey mullet
Think Twice
Length
35 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Siganus canaliculatus
Indo-West Pacific
White-spotted spinefoot
Think Twice
Length
12 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Trachinotus blochii
Indo-Pacific
Snubnose pompano
Think Twice
Length
36 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Plectropomus leopardus
Western Pacific
Leopard coralgrouper
Avoid
Length
20 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus fuscoguttatus x Epinephelus lanceolatus
Artificial Species
Sabah grouper
Avoid
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Cromileptes altivelis
Indo-West Pacific
Humpback grouper
Avoid
Length
35 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus akaara
Northwest Pacific
Hong Kong grouper
Avoid
Length
23 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus coioides
Indo-West Pacific
Orange-spotted grouper
Avoid
Length
25 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus fuscoguttatus
Indo-Pacific
Brown-marbled grouper
Avoid
Length
57 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Plectropomus areolatus
Indo-Pacific
Squaretail coralgrouper
Avoid
Length
39 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Plectropomus maculatus
Western Pacific
Spotted coralgrouper
Avoid
Length
30 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Terapon jarbua
Indo-Pacific
Jarbua terapon
Not Assessed
Length
15 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Lates calcarifer
Indo-West Pacific
Barramundi
Not Assessed
Length
60 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Girella punctata
Northwest Pacific
Black nibbler
Not Assessed
Length
25 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Acanthopagrus latus
Northwest Pacific
Yellowfin seabream
Not Assessed
Length
29.1 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Lateolabrax japonicus
Western Pacific
Common sea bass
Not Assessed
Length
50 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Acanthopagrus schlegelii
Northwest Pacific
Blackhead seabream
Not Assessed
Length
10 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Lutjanus malabaricus
Indo-West Pacific
Malabar blood snapper
Not Assessed
Length
58 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Pagrus major
Northwest Pacific
Red seabream
Not Assessed
Length
30 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Monacanthus chinensis
Indo-Pacific
Fan-bellied leather jacket
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Sparus aurata
Eastern Pacific
Gilt-head bream
Not Assessed
Length
33 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Stephanolepis cirrhifer
Western Pacific
Threadsail filefish
Not Assessed
Length
12 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Gymnothorax reevesii
Indo-West Pacific
Reeve’s moray
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Oplegnathus punctatus
Pacific
Spotted knifejaw
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Scarus ghobban
Indo-Pacific
Blue-barred parrotfish
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Scorpaenopsis cf. cirrosa
Northwest Pacific
Weedy stingfish
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Sebastiscus marmoratus
Western Pacific
Common rockfish
Not Assessed
Length
6 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Hapalogenys nigripinnis
Northwest Pacific
Short barbled velvetchin
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Siganus punctatus
Western Pacific
Goldspotted spinefoot
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Cephalopholis sonnerati
Indo-Pacific
Tomato hind
Not Assessed
Length
34 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus awoara
Northwest Pacific
Yellow grouper
Not Assessed
Length
26 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus bleekeri
Indo-West Pacific
Duskytail grouper
Not Assessed
Length
36 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus corallicola
Western Pacific
Coral grouper
Not Assessed
Length
29 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus maculatus
Pacific
Highfin grouper
Not Assessed
Length
31 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus polyphekadion
Indo-Pacific
Camouflage grouper
Not Assessed
Length
27 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Epinephelus quoyanus
Western Pacific
Longfin grouper
Not Assessed
Length
20 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Variola louti
Indo-Pacific
Yellow-edged lyretail
Not Assessed
Length
33 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Plectorhinchus cinctus
Indo-West Pacific
Crescent sweetlips
Not Assessed
Length
Unknown
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Aethaloperca rogaa
Indo-West Pacific
Redmouth grouper
Not Assessed
Length
35 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en
Cephalopholis boenak
Indo-West Pacific
Chocolate Hind
Not Assessed
Length
12 CM
ne
dd
lc
vu
nt
en