Protecting Nassau Grouper Spawning Sites
Nassau grouper was historically one of the most important shallow water fisheries in the Caribbean, but by the 1990s their numbers had dropped so significantly that they became one of the first Caribbean reef fish listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Although normally solitary, Nassau grouper attend aggregations at spawning sites to reproduce, where fishermen find them easy targets. While several large spawning aggregations historically occurred in the Cayman Islands, all but one have been fished to commercial exhaustion. In 2003, the Cayman Island Marine Conservation Board instituted a fishing ban on Nassau grouper at all current and historic aggregations sites, but the ban was due to sunset unless scientific evidence documented that the protections were warranted. Brice Semmens, Ph.D., of REEF and colleagues have built scientific justification for the continued protection of the one currently active spawning site on Little Cayman. Project scientists investigated whether sufficient fish are congregating and spawning at the historic sites and if there are other locations around the Cayman Islands where these populations are aggregating.