The red roman Chrysoblephus laticeps is a species of seabream endemic to southern Africa and found from Namibia to Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape. The red roman is a striking orange to red fish with a robust build, it has a defined white bar on the gill cover and a white saddle. It also has a blue line linking the eyes. You can find mature red romans on inshore and offshore reefs to a depth of 100m, while juveniles can be found on shallow subtidal reefs to a depth of 30m.
Red romans are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of invertebrates found on the reef including echinoderms, cephalopods, as well as some crustaceans, and polychaetes. Red romans are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they start their lives as females and undergo a sex change to male between the age of 7 and 9 years, and 27-30cm in length.
With this sex change comes a behavioural change too, where females spend time socially on the open reef, while males become solitary and territorial, spending times in caves. This species of fish is unfortunately considered to be severely overexploited throughout its range, with the stocks considered to be collapsed. Red romans are vulnerable to fishing pressures due to a number of factors including their highly territorial and residential nature, their slow growth, and late age of maturing.
Red romans are primarily caught using traditional linefishing methods. Red romans are listed as Near Threatened according to the IUCN, with a stable population. Fortunately, no-take Marine Protected Areas, as well as bag (2 per person per day) and minimum size (30cm) limits, have assisted in the slow recovery of the stocks, but are considered partly effective for the management of the sector. Red romans still occur in relatively high densities in various MPA’s, primarily Tsitsikamma National Park and Goukamma MPA. The maximum recorded size is 51cm and 4.5kg.
Written by: Minke Tolsma
For further reading:
- Mann, B.Q., Buxton, C.D. & Carpenter, K.E. 2014. Chrysoblephus laticeps. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. Accessed: 2017-07-15. URL: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/170170/0.