Northern Red Snapper - Oceana

Ocean Fishes

Northern Red Snapper

Lutjanus campechanus



Rocky reefs and other hard bottoms as well as artificial reefs

Feeding Habits

Active predator


Order Perciformes (perch-like fishes), Family Lutjanidae (snappers)


Northern red snappers are active predators and eat just about anything that is smaller than them, including smaller fishes, crustaceans, octopuses, squids, etc. On hard bottoms and rocky and artificial reefs throughout their range, northern red snappers are one of the top predators, but adults are eaten by sharks, very large bony fishes, and marine mammals, and juveniles are eaten by a variety of medium to large fishes.

Northern red snappers reproduce through a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where several females release their eggs and several males release sperm into the water column above the seafloor, at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators near the seafloor and will instead be carried away by the currents. Northern red snappers reach sexual maturity by two years of age, but older females are known to produce higher numbers of higher quality eggs. Unfortunately, juveniles of this species live in the same habitat with commercially important and extremely valuable shrimp and are captured accidentally, in very large numbers, by bottom trawlers targeting other species. This activity threatens the ability of northern red snappers to maintain viable populations.

The accidental capture of juveniles and the heavy direct fishing pressure on this species by commercial and recreational fisheries both threaten northern red snapper populations throughout its range. A recent worrisome decline in populations of this species has led to tight regulation of northern red snapper fishing activities in both state and federal waters in the United States and in Mexico. Without continuing enforcement, the commercial viability of this species could be at risk. Fortunately, the short time required for young northern red snappers to reach sexual maturity means that decimated populations should be able to recover relatively quickly, with strong management. However, accidental bycatch of juveniles may continue to threaten the species. In the wake of northern red snapper declines, several other species have been deceitfully labeled as this species in markets and restaurants throughout its range.

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans

Additional Resources:

IUCN Red List

NOAA Fisheries