Groupers and wrasses are largely dependent on rocky and coral reefs. Many are long-lived and slow-growing. Despite the fact that most species produce large numbers of eggs each year, rates of population growth are slow, and evidence is growing that many species can only withstand light levels of fishing pressure. The high value of many species, however, makes them a particularly appealing target. Fishing is not only directed towards adults, juveniles are also taken as ornamentals and for mariculture. Indeed, in Southeast Asia, millions of juveniles are targetted annually to supply the mariculture industry.

Many the larger species of groupers and wrasses aggregate to spawn for short periods and at specific locations each year. The practice of targeting spawning aggregations, both in the western tropical Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific, is considered to be a particular threat because such aggregations evidently represent all annual reproductive activity. These aggregations are vulnerable bottlenecks in the life history of many species and need to be protected or managed (www.scrfa.org).

The various pressures on these two families have led to marked declines in several species. In 2007, the GWSG held a workshop in which all grouper species were assessed for threat levels. That workshop indicated that many species, even those not currently under pressure from directed fishing efforts, were threatened or near-threatened based on the IUCN criteria.