These large, silvery fish are prominent members of our Ocean Basket Kelp Forest exhibit. White steenbras (Lithognathus lithognathus), also sometimes known as pignose grunters, occur in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They grow up to a length of about one metre and can weigh up to as much as 30 kilograms, making them popular targets for anglers.

According to A Guide to The Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa by Rudy van der Elst (Struik, 1985), white steenbras prefer shallower waters to deeper seas, and are also often found in estuaries – they can survive for extended periods in almost-fresh water.

They have pointed noses and tiny teeth at the front of their jaws, with larger molars towards the back. Their diets are varied, and can include molluscs, crabs, shrimps and worms.

In their natural habitat, these fish are fairly solitary, though at certain times of year, there can be large runs of them, for example up the east coast of South Africa.

These fish mature at about five years, and are commonly bisexual.

SASSI status – Red (don't buy)


Species Facts

  • Popular with anglers in South Africa
  • Often have a mother-of-pearl sheen to their bodies
  • Occur in both Indian and Atlantic Oceans
  • Listed as Red (no sale) on SASSI’s Consumer Seafood List (see www.wwfsassi.co.za)