Around 12% of all grouper species are threatened with extinction, according to the results of the first comprehensive conservation assessment of the family.
The grouper assessment, which was undertaken as part of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), found that 20 of the world's 163 grouper species were threatened with extinction.
The decline is believed to have been caused by overfishing and a lack of proper fisheries management, particularly in the live reef fish trade (LRFT), which is growing in the Hong Kong area.
The IUCN Red List has previously assessed a number of Epinephelus and Mycteroperca species and found many of them to be vulnerable, near threatened, endangered or critically endangered.
Groupers are long-lived and become sexually mature much later in life than other fish species, which makes them much more vulnerable to exploitation by commercial fisheries.
Roger McManus, senior director of Conservation International said: "Overfishing could decimate another major food and economic resource for humans, similar to the loss of cod stocks off New England and Canada that has put thousands of people out of work."
Conservation International says that the findings highlight the need to better protect outer reef areas beyond the boundaries of marine protected areas, and to manage spawning aggregations of the threatened groupers.
Dr Yvonne Sadovy, chairperson of the IUCN Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group, and the director of the Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations, told CI:
"The results are worrying and highlight the urgent need for fisheries management, more effective marine protected areas, and more sustainable eating habits for consumers of these fishes."
Groupers include representatives in the subfamily Epinephelini, which includes 16 genera: Aethaloperca; Alphestes; Anyperodon; Cephalopholis; Chromileptes; Dermatolepis; Epinephelides; Epinephelus; Gonioplectrus; Gracila; Mycteroperca; Paranthias; Plectropomus; Saloptia; Triso and Variola.