Snapper is found along the south, west and east coasts of Australia, on the northern coast of New Zealand, around the coastlines of many pacific islands and along the coast of China. As they spawn in inshore waters, it is possible to find large numbers of adult snappers close to shore during the breeding season.
Once mature, these fish tend to live in rocky waters and reef areas of up to 200metres in depth, although they do spend some time in mid-to upper water levels. Larger fish are also known to spend time in larger estuaries and harbour areas, especially during the breeding period. Although tagging projects have also shown that some snapper can move hundreds of kilometres in their quest to find food, the majority of snapper are thought to live, breed and die within an area of around 20km.
Snapper are easy to identify, because of their colourings. The top half of the body, the tail and the side fins are distinctly pink, and the underbelly of the fish and the lower fins are a creamy white or pale pink colour, depending on the age of the fish and its location. The upper body is also punctuated with small, blue spots. These spots are more pronounced on smaller fish. Most divers will spot snapper during diving excursions, because of their tendency to follow divers in reef areas.
Snapper reach sexual maturity when they are about 30cm long, at which point a small number of males may turn into females, in order to increase the potential breeding pool. The age at which the fish reach sexual maturity can depend on which area the fish inhabit. After reaching sexual maturity, the growth rates of wild fish can vary a lot, which is also something that is dependent on where they live. Some of the larger specimen which have been caught in Sydney’s waters have been over 1 metre long and more than 10kg in weight. The minimum legal length limit for a catch varies, depending on which area of Australia you are fishing, from, so it is always best to check before landing a catch. Sydney Snapper fishing regulations, the minimum legal length is 30cm, with a bag limit of 10 per day.
Snapper can live for more than 40 years if they remain disease free and avoid potential predators; however they are often eaten by cod, dolphins and shark species.
Major food sources for snapper include small fish, worms, jellyfish, molluscs, crustaceans, echinoderms (e.g. sea urchins) and algae. Many of the smaller sea creatures which make reefs their home are part of the snapper diet.
Whole baked snapper can be a delicious dish when cooked correctly, and a large, adult fish can feed a lot of people. Due to the popularity of the fish, some fishing limits have been imposed, in an attempt to prevent overfishing and promote an increase in wild fish stocks.