Red Scorpion Fish and Black Scorpion Fish

Red Scorpion Fish

Red Scorpion Fish

  • Scientific name: Scorpaena scrofa
  • Also know as: Big-scale Scorpion Fish, Large-scale scorpion fish, Rascasse, Red Rascasse
  • Size: Up to 60cm in length, but usually half this size or smaller.
  • UK minimum size: 8ins / 20cm
  • UK shore caught record: No record currently listed.
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Found along the western coast of Africa and throughout the Mediterranean. At the northern edge of its distribution in British waters but can be found off the coast of south west England and in the English Channel.
  • Feeds on: Mostly other fish but will scavenge for other food sources.
  • Description: Small to medium sized squat fish, with fatty, broad body. Body is usually orange with darker mottled spots and patches and is covered in lumps and protrusions. Pectoral fins are broad and almost circular, first dorsal fin has a number of spines which secrete venom, as do the gill covers.
  • Additional notes: Not be confused with the long-spined and short-spined scorpion fish.

The red scorpion fish is a species which is rare in UK waters, but it is found off the coast of southern and western England. It generally prefers deeper offshore waters at least thirty metres deep and can be found all of the way down to several hundred metres. This preference for deeper water, and its feeding method as an ambush predator perhaps explains why it is not often encountered by UK anglers, although they are occasionally inadvertently caught by commercial vessels in the waters of the British Isles.

Appearance, Habitat and Feeding

A striking looking fish with a fat body, often covered in lumps and bumps, this species has venomous spines on its back and gill covers. It is a solitary species, gathering with other red scorpion fish only to spawn, although very little is known about the reproduction patterns of this species. Red scorpion fish are usually found in rocky and broken offshore grounds. They are nocturnal, hiding away in cracks and crevices between the rocks during daylight hours and emerging at night to hunt. They work as an ambush predator, lying in wait until a small fish or prawn comes within striking range when they will dart out and catch the creature in their jaws. They are however also thought to scavenge on dead fish or shellfish they may come across.

Human Interactions and Commercial Value

Red Scorpion Fish

Red scorpion fish on sale in France.

Due to the venom this species has they are a threat to divers and commercial fishermen who may handle this species. The effect of the venom is said to be more powerful than that of the weever fish and can cause intense pain, headaches and vomiting. In extreme cases people stung by this species can require hospital treatment. Despite this the red scorpionfish is commercially important in the Mediterranean, and is the traditional fish to use in bouillabaisse, a French dish which originates from the port city of Marseilles. In the Mediterranean this species is caught using small-scale trawls, gill nets and tangle nets. In other parts of the world where this species is present it may be caught as bycatch and discarded at sea. Despite the commercial attention this species receives it is classed as a species of Least Concern with a stable population trend by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in all of the areas where it has been assessed. However, the IUCN recommend that this species is monitored as its long lifespan, relatively slow growth and lack of mobility mean that numbers could be reduced by overfishing in the future.

Black Scorpion Fish

Black Scorpion Fish

  • Scientific name: Scorpaena porcus
  • Also know as: Small-scale scorpion fish
  • Size: Up to 40cm in length but often no more than 15 – 20cm
  • UK minimum size: 8ins / 20cm
  • UK shore caught record: No record currently listed.
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Found through the Mediterranean, Black Sea and north coast of Africa. Also found along the Atlantic coast of Spain, France and Portugal. Rare in UK waters but observed off the coasts of Cornwall, Wales, and parts of Ireland and in the English Channel. Also found in Irish waters.
  • Feeds on: Small fish and prawns and will also scavenge any other food sources.
  • Description:
  • Usually mottled dark brown/light brown in colour, sometimes with black or grey patches. Skin is covered with lumps and protrusions. Pectoral fins are broad and near circular and the dorsal fins have venomous spines.
  • Additional notes: Not be be confused with sea scorpion species.

The black scorpion fish is species of scorpion fish, which is distinguished from the red scorpion fish by its smaller size and darker colour. This species is much more common in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but can occasionally be found along the southern and western coasts of the British Isles. This species of scorpion fish is also generally found in rocky offshore waters, but may come into shallower water than the red scorpion fish and may also live across seabeds with less rock and weed cover. This species is also solitary and also preys on smaller species of fish as an ambush predator.

This species is commercially valuable and is mostly caught in the Mediterranean. The ICUN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) lists it as a species of Least Concern in this area, as well as in the European regional and globally, although they point out that the continued effects of overfishing and pollution may mean that the status of the black scorpion fish will need to be reassessed in the future as numbers could decline.

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