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Nassau Grouper Is Now Critically Endangered #533514
11/29/18 01:11 PM
11/29/18 01:11 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 70,236
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

The Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is now a critically-endangered species. That’s according to a new report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN. This means that populations, including spawning aggregations, have declined by more 80% over three generations (1980-2018), for Nassau grouper fish, which live approximately 16 years. Nassau grouper now face an extremely high risk of extinction.

The main threats, according to IUCN, are over-fishing due to heavy fishing on spawning aggregations; and loss of quality coral reef habitat.

Details of the IUCN Report are found here:

In Belize all these aggregation sites have undergone dramatic declines in fish abundance over the past two decades and despite some protective measures that have reduced fishing effort on these aggregations; recovery does not appear to be occurring.

WCS contributed to the IUCN assessment details of which are available at the link below:

Nassau Grouper Becomes Critically Endangered

The Nassau grouper—a fish known for its spectacular spawning aggregations in and around the Caribbean Sea—is now a “Critically Endangered” species, according to a new assessment by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) inhabits the waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and averages about 20 pounds in weight. Once a common species throughout its range, the fish has been in steep decline since 1980 and has declined by more than 80 percent over that time. The Nassau grouper is now at risk of extinction, according to scientists.

“The uplisting of the Nassau grouper to Critically Endangered status is a renewed call to action following the implementation of 10 years of regulations through size limits, closed seasons and closed areas in Belize which has yet to provide adequate protection for this beleaguered species,” said Dr. Alexander Tewfik, Senior Conservation Scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Belize Program.

For details of the IUCN Report, click here

One of the biggest threats to the Nassau grouper is overfishing. Heavy fishing conducted during the grouper’s enormous spawning aggregations, which occur over underwater promontories just after the full moons in December through March, is especially harmful to this species, by removing the biggest and best adults from the population. The loss of pristine coral reefs—the grouper’s primary habitat—is also a contributing factor to the downward population trend of Nassau groupers.

The new assessment on the Nassau grouper and its new Critically Endangered listing was recently published and supported by studies and data generated by WCS scientists working in the coastal waters of Belize.

Further, WCS is part of the Belize Spawning Aggregation Working Group, a partnership consisting of conservation NGOs, fisher groups, academic organizations, and the Belize Fisheries Department that have worked since 2001 to protect and manage the country’s fish aggregations in sites where they occur in Belize waters.

Thirteen of Belize’s Nassau grouper aggregation sites are fully protected, and fishing for the species is closed for four months. Further, only fish between 20 and 30 inches in size are legal for harvesting.

Nevertheless, some sites have seen fewer fish over the years. At Glover’s Reef Atoll, a key WCS conservation area, one of the last viable aggregations of Nassau grouper totaled only 925 individual fish in 2018, down from more than 3,000 fish just five years prior and historic highs of 15,000 in the 1970s. Physical evidence of fishing out of season on protected spawning aggregation sites includes hooked fish, anchors, and lights to attract fish to hooks.

“Our most recent findings on the Nassau grouper and its decline in key aggregation sites, along with the new designation as a Critically Endangered species, indicate that this fish is in need of a national conservation plan in Belize and in other countries where these groupers exist,” said Nicole Auil Gomez, Director of WCS’s Belize Program.

WCS’s work in Belize is generously supported by the Oak Foundation, The Summit Foundation, Oceans 5, and the UK’s Government’s Darwin Initiative.

Re: Nassau Grouper Is Now Critically Endangered [Re: Marty] #540172
01/22/20 05:33 AM
01/22/20 05:33 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 70,236
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Nassau Grouper critically endangered; fish has protection in Belize

In the past, as recent as last year, we’ve reported on the Nassau Grouper and why Belize has taken steps to protect this species.  The fish is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Nassau Grouper as a critically endangered species in the region.  While there are thirteen sites in Belize where Nassau Grouper spawns, those sites are also under threat and so the fish is at risk of disappearing from our waters.  The Wildlife Conservation Society puts the population of the fish at one site at around four hundred, a drastic decline from the fifteen thousand recorded at the same site some five years ago.  But despite local protection with local legislation, fisheries managers still encounter illegal fishing of this species. Hampton Gamboa shared more about this fish and why consumers need to play their role in helping to protect it.

Hampton Gamboa, Supervisor, Conservation/Compliance Unit, Belize Fisheries Department

“At present the Nassau Grouper season is close in Belize. It closes from December first to the thirty-first of March every year. So, for those four months it is closed. In addition to that, Nassau Groupers usually congregate at spawning banks through-out the entire country. All spawning banks in Belize are protected areas and are closed for any kind of fishing activities annually.   There is an SI 49 in 2009 that speaks to the protection of this species, Nassau Grouper. Since then the Department has engaged in a number of operations during the closed season for Nassau Grouper because they only spawn at a certain time of the year; during the closed period from first December to March thirty-first. Outside of that people may be wondering when the season opens on April first. Well, we have size limits, so you can’t catch any Nassau Grouper less than twenty inches in full length and not larger than thirty inches. So, anything greater than thirty and less than twenty is illegal.  Nassau grouper, when the season is open, can only be landed be whole in Belize. They are not to fillet it and things like that.  We are appealing to the consumers, the purchasers, the resorts and other establishments that sell marine products to be mindful of what we are doing; our efforts. We are appealing to them to comply because if they are not buying too then to a certain extent the fishers won’t go out and fish.”

Channel 5

Grouper Populations Declining

There were 21 whole fish in the catch.

When the season opens in April, the size of the catch is limited to between 20 and 30 inches. Additionally, there are only 85 fishers licensed to catch the fish.

But, with all this, the numbers are dwindling as Courtney Weatherburne found out in her story which aired on January 8th

One of the species of fish that has shown a tremendous downturn is the Nassau Grouper which is now critically endangered. There was a flourishing population at the Northeast point aggregation site in the Glovers Reef Atoll, but that is not the case anymore.

Myles Phillips, Marine Science Coordinator, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
"In the 60's and 70's when Nassau Groupers was the most caught fish in Belize or British Honduras then, they were seeing these fish at these sites, it was estimated in the tens of thousands of fish coming to breed every winter season but now you are very lucky that at any of these sites you see more than a few hundred."

Laws were passed in 2009 to protect the Nassau grouper in Belize.

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