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NURP Research Contributes to Nassau Grouper Conservation in the Bahamas
This story entered on 5th Jan, 2004 06:10:32 AM PST

Nassau grouper were once among the most important fishery species in the wider Caribbean region, but overfishing has reduced their numbers such that they are now protected from fishing in State and Federal waters of the US and are on the IUCN's Red List of endangered species. One of the few places where stocks support a healthy fishery is in the Bahamas, but even there, stocks are showing signs of decline.

For the past 15 years, researchers at the Caribbean Marine Research Center (CMRC), NURP's Center for the Caribbean region, have been studying Nassau grouper at CMRC's research facility on Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas. This research has been focused on issues aimed at helping managers protect or rebuild Nassau grouper stocks.

On December 16 2003, Mr. Michael Braynen, the Director of the Bahamas Department of Fisheries, announced the first ever closed fishing season for Nassau grouper in Bahamian waters. This announcement included the declaration of a closed fishing season for Nassau grouper for the entire month of January in 2004 and from December 16 2004 until January 16 2005. These annual closed seasons encompass winter full moon periods when spawning aggregations are likely to form.

Scientific research on Nassau grouper populations conducted by CMRC researchers played a major role in the decision to close the 2004 Nassau grouper fishing season.

Highlights of this research include: documentation of declines in numbers of fish at specific spawning aggregation sites over 12-15 years of fishing them; a trend towards declining recruitment of juvenile fish into the population; and documentation of individual fish migrating tens to hundreds of kilometers to spawning aggregation sites. Ongoing Nassau grouper research at CMRC will focus on further examinations of their movements to and from spawning aggregation sites and montoring recruitment, to evaluate the effectiveness of the closed season.

REPRINTED BELOW IS THE PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE DEPT. OF FISHERIES BAHAMAS:

(1.) CLOSURE OF FISHING AT HIGH CAY, ANDROS
(2.) CLOSURE OF NASSAU GROUPER FISHING THROUGHOUT THE BAHAMAS

The Department of Fisheries wishes to advise the public that the waters surrounding High Cay, off the coast of Andros will be designated as a "Protected Area" during the period of 18th December 2003 to 31st March 2004. During this period all forms of fishing will be prohibited in this area around High Cay as specified below.

The designated "Protected Area" is bounded in the north by latitude 2440'N, in the South by Latitude 24 37.8'N, in the east by Longitude 77 40.8'W and in the west by Longitude 77 44'W, and encompassing an area of approximately seven (7) square miles.

The Department of Fisheries wishes to further advise the public that the taking, landing, processing, selling and offering for sale of fresh Nassau Grouper will be prohibited during the periods from 1st January 2004 to 31st January 2004 and from 16th December 2004 to 16th February 2005 throughout The Bahamas.

The above measures are a part of efforts being made to ensure that the commercial fishery for the Nassau Grouper in The Bahamas will be sustained in for the benefit of present and future generations of Bahamian fishermen and consumers.

The Department of Fisheries requests the cooperation of all fishermen and the general public in this regard. Persons found in violation of the above will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Contact information
Name: Craig Dahlgren
Tel: (305) 373-9370
cdahlgren@cmrc.org

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Updated: April 1, 2005