BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF ANGLERFISHES OF THE GENUS LOPHIUS (LOPHIIDAE, LOPHIIFORMES) WITH EMPHASIS IN LOPHIUS GASTROPHYSUS MIRANDA-RIBEIRO, 1915: CURRENT STATUS
Keywords:Lophiids, growth, reproduction, feeding, fishery management.
We reviewed available information on seven species of anglerfishes of the genus Lophius, all of them economically important. Geographically, anglerfishes are distributed on the continental shelf and slope of the Atlantic, Western Pacific, and Indian oceans. Many of the studies refer to two species of the north-eastern Atlantic, the black-bellied angler Lophius budegassa and the angler Lophius piscatorius. Lophiids have received their common name because of the characteristic way that they attract prey to their wide mouth, by moving the illicium (the modified first ray of the dorsal fin), located at the tip of the snout. Recent underwater observations, however, showed that Lophius piscatorius casts its illicium before the immediate attack, when the prey already cannot escape. Underwater observations also revealed the action of the pelvic and pectoral fins that help the fish bury itself during sit-and-wait behavior. The available data on feeding indicated that the species are basically piscivorous. Females release their eggs immersed in a buoyant, gelatinous mass, similar to the egg masses of toads. The eggs and larvae are pelagic, and the juveniles are demersal; the adults occupy deeper areas. Concomitant with the interest generated by their peculiar way of life, the species of Lophius have come to be appreciated for culinary purposes due to the texture and flavor of the meat. This awoke interest in their commercial exploitation, and these fish have become a valued fishery resource in Japanese, American, and European markets. The increasing development of the Lophius fishery has prompted research on the reproduction, feeding and fishery of the European species and the Goosefish Lophius americanus. On the other hand, the Western Atlantic Monkfish Lophius gastrophysus, locally known as the ‘toadfish' or ‘monkfish' is still barely studied off the Brazilian coast. This species was intensively exploited between 2000 and 2002, resulting in a reduction in the catch during that period. In 2005, a federal regulation (Normative Instruction) limited the annual maximum catch for this species. However, the biological basis of this regulatory tool was derived from research on other species of Lophius in the Atlantic. Research on the biology and ecology of Lophius gastrophysus is urgently required in order to enable an assessment of the sustainability of the local populations and to support effective management of the fishery.