Estuary cod occur in tropical and warm temperate marine waters of the Indo-Pacific including the Persian Gulf, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Fiji and around numerous other islands. In Australia they are most common in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia; however, they are known to occur as far southwards as the Sydney area.
Estuary cod inhabit turbid coastal reefs and are often found in brackish water over mud and rubble. They are frequently misidentified as Epinephelus tauvina (Greasy grouper) or Epinephelus malabaricus (Malabar grouper), which look similar and have overlapping distributions. Estuary cod also have a variety of common names including estuary rock cod, orange-spotted grouper, orange-spotted cod, green grouper, greasy cod, spotted river cod and brown-spotted grouper.
Estuary cod are widely grown in aquaculture in Asian countries such as Singapore and Taiwan; however, the different species (E. coioides and E. malabaricus) have not been distinguished during most of the production.
Estuary cod are listed as a protected fish in NSW under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. Heavy penalties apply for taking or possessing them.
Estuary cod are brown above and whitish below. They have four to six dark-coloured bands running diagonally from top to bottom across their body. There are numerous small orange- brown spots on the head, body and fins. The spots are pupil-sized in small fish but become relatively smaller and more numerous as the fish ages. The spots can range in colour from orange-red to brown. Estuary cod may grow to 180 cm (100 kg) but are more commonly around 40–120 cm long and up to 25 kg.
Taking or possessing estuary cod (or any other species of protected fish) is an offence and heavy penalties apply. For corporations these penalties can include fines of up to $55 000 while individuals can face fines of up to $11 000 and up to 3 months in prison.
Kuiter RH 1996, Guide to sea fishes of Australia, New Holland, Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia, 433 pp.
Randall JE, Allen GR & Steene RC 1997, Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, revised edition, Crawford House, Bathurst, NSW,
For more information on general fishing regulations check with your local fisheries office or visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries
To contact your local NSW DPI Fisheries Office visit https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/contact-us/contact-a-dpi-fisheries-officer or phone 1300 550 474.