An 8-year ban on fishing at the spawning aggregations of the Nassau grouper in the Cayman Islands is about to expire. The current ban stops the fishing of Nassau grouper from their breeding grounds, although mature fish can still be caught outside of these areas. The ban was enacted after severe over-fishing threatened the entire population in 2002/3. At that time, the ban was enacted to preserve the remaining fish stock
Anna DeLoach was involved in the assessment of the breeding groups in 2002 and is leading a campaign for the ban to remain in place. The Caycompass reports that discontent at this proposal is already being voiced by the fishing industry, and it is important that our community responds in order to prevent the Nassau grouper being decimated again.
UPDATE: There is now an online petition on this issue. Please take the time to sign it in order to add your support.
From Anna DeLoach. 2 March 2011.
Dear friend of the Nassau grouper:
We need your help to save the Nassau Grouper. An 8-year ban on fishing at spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands is due to expire this year. You can help support permanent protections during the spawning season so that this endangered species can continue to reproduce. This will ensure that the Nassau grouper will continue to be an icon in the Cayman Islands for generations to come. Please make your voice heard by sending a letter to the officials listed below. Action is needed by March 31st, 2011.
Premier: Hon.McKeeva Bush.
Minister of Environment: Hon.Mark Scotland.
Leader of the Opposition and Alden McLaughlin.
Marine Conservation Board, Chairman, Don Foster.
Marine Conservation Board, Secretary, Phillippe Bush.
Director of Department of Environment, Gina Ebanks-Petrie.
If you would prefer to mail a hard copy of your letter, please mail it to: Department of the Environment, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Cayman Islands Government, PO Box 486, Grand Cayman KY1-1106, Cayman Islands Here is a sample letter. Please take a moment to personalize it, or just simply send it as is:
Dear Honorable Officials of the Cayman Islands, Please enact permanent protections to save the iconic Nassau grouper before the existing prohibition on fishing the aggregation sites expires. Don’t miss this opportunity to continue to be at the forefront of Caribbean marine conservation.
The Cayman Islands is recognized as a leader in the region, starting 25 years ago with the establishment of an extensive network of marine parks. In 2003, this tradition was continued with the forethought to protect spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper through a ban on fishing at these important sites. These actions collectively have lead to the Cayman Islands having some of the healthiest reefs throughout the Caribbean, including the largest known population of Nassau Grouper in the world and one of the last healthy spawning sites in the Caribbean.
Intensive research conducted on Nassau grouper over the past 9 years as part of Grouper Moon Project by the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment and REEF has indicated these actions are indeed working. The ban has resulted in higher numbers of this endangered species in Cayman waters. This benefits everyone, including the future generations of Caymanians, divers and snorkelers, and fishermen. A healthy population of Nassau Grouper is also critical for healthy and productive coral reefs.
Other countries such as Belize, Mexico, and the Bahamas have already taken decisive action to protect what remains of their spawning populations. If the Cayman Islands fail to enact permanent protections, the last remaining viable spawning aggregation of Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean will be lost. As you may know, these fish only reproduce during their spawning season and only at specific sites, therefore protection during this critical time period is essential.
A fishing closure for Nassau grouper during the spawning season should be implemented. I urge you to take this critical step — please protect this vital part of the Cayman Islands’ economy and cultural heritage! Thank you for your consideration and attention.