Volume 68

Brief History of Management and Conservation of Nassau grouper and their Spawning Aggregations in Belize: A Collaborative Approach

Burns Perez, V. and A. Tewfik
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Date: November, 2015

Pages: 118 - 122

Event: Proceedings of the Sixty eigth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Panama City

Country: Panama


The Belize Spawning Aggregation Working Group has been in existence since 2001. For the past fourteen years, this group of conservation NGOs, fisher organizations, academic institutions and the Belize Fisheries Department have collaborated and made significant progress in the protection and management of Belize’s reef fish spawning aggregation sites. This includes advocating for protecting the endangered Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) through a network of thirteen fully protected spawning sites, a four month closed season (Dec. 1st – March 31st) and implementation of minimum, 20 inches (50.8 cm), and maximum, 30 inches (76.2 cm), harvestable size limits. Of the thirteen fully protected spawning aggregations sites for Nassau grouper eight have had some level of direct population monitoring for Nassau Grouper conducted over the last 15 years. The size of spawning populations at these sites have varied with the maintenance and/or re-emergence of spawning aggregations along Belize’s barrier reef (e.g. Caye Glory) lending evidence to the movement of Nassau grouper from great distances. In contrast, the existence of barriers to movement (i.e. deep water) and strong spawning site fidelity potentially make offshore (i.e. atolls) sites more vulnerable to the effects of overfishing than those on the main barrier reef. Northeast Point, Glover’s Reef Atoll, is one of the last viable spawning aggregation sites for Nassau Grouper in Belize. This site has seen considerable variation in the spawning population, with highs of more than 3000 in 2001, 2005, and 2010, but a general decline over time to a low of 450 individuals in 2015. This decline coincides with evidence of illegal fishing at the spawning aggregation site even with the existence of special patrols starting in 2008. In spite of such setbacks, the efforts and successes of the Belize Spawning Aggregation Working Group highlight the need for and impact of a national coalition in promoting sustainable resource use and conservation.

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