Endangered Nassau Groupers Make a Comeback in the Cayman Islands

Researchers in the Cayman Islands say that a decade of protecting Nassau grouper spawning sites is paying off. Scientists have found that reefs in Little Cayman, where groupers have been spawning, are showing a “growing and healthy population” of this endangered species. [Also see previous post Cayman Islands: Fishing Ban Extended at One of the Last Spawning Areas for the Nassau Grouper.]

Conservationist and marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey—who has worked closely with researchers from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, known as REEF, Oregon State University and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment to bring about legislation to protect the species—explains that “The work is finally done and science indicates the groupers need to have aggregation sites projected to help them survive.”

In 2003, an eight-year fishing ban was introduced at Nassau group spawning sites in the Cayman Islands to protect the species, which is being pushed to extinction throughout the Caribbean due to over fishing. Last year, the Marine Conservation Board of the Cayman Islands extended that ban for a further eight years.

Researchers visited the spawning area in Little Cayman in February to collect egg samples for genetic research and noted a marked increase in the number of groupers. “It was the biggest spawn we’ve ever seen,” Mr. Harvey said. “With the right cooperation, the Nassau grouper will become a symbol of conservation for threatened marine species – a shining example of what can be achieved if all the stakeholders work together.”

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, is recommending a ban on fishing of Nassau grouper during spawning season, which runs from 1 November to 31 March, and the enforcement of catch limits for hook and line for the remainder of the year. The government is considering extending the fishing ban during the spawning season and implementing an open and closed season for groupers on an annual basis. Those proposals are currently being drafted and will be presented to Cabinet.

The penalty for catching Nassau grouper in a spawning aggregation site between November and March is up to one year in prison or up to $500,000 in fines.

Brice Semmens [. . .] said a healthy and growing Nassau grouper population will seed local reefs surrounding the Cayman Islands and be at the epicentre for the recovery of the species throughout the Caribbean.

For full article, see http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2012/04/23/Nassau-groupers-making-comeback/

Also see http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2011/12/12/Nassau-Grouper-gorgeous,-personable-fish/ and http://www.speakupforblue.com/everything-ocean/a-social-media-revolution-advocate-for-the-nassau-grouper

Photo from http://animal.discovery.com/guides/endangered/fish/nassau-grouper.html

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