Volume 69

Fish Spawning Aggregation Monitoring and Management in the Modern Era: Insights from the Cayman Islands

Semmens, B.X., C.V. Pattengill-Semmens, C.M. McCoy, S. Heppell, P.G. Bush, B.C. Johnson, and G. Ebanks-Petrie
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Date: November, 2016

Pages: 1 - 3

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

City: Grand Cayman

Country: Cayman Islands


Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) have been a prized target of fishermen in the Cayman Islands for over 100 years. While for much of that time period, take of the species at fish spawning sites (FSAs) during the winter months was subsist-ence in nature, technological advances and commercialization in the latter part of the last century led to overexploitation. By the late 1980s, concern within the fishing community regarding diminishing catch led the Cayman Islands Department of Environment to begin active research into the status of the species in the region. Subsequent landings data illustrated a rapid decline in catch at aggregation sites, and by the 1990s the Department ceased collecting landings data due to a complete collapse in catch at all known spawning sites. The Grouper Moon Project is a conservation science partnership between Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE) with scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanogra-phy (UC San Diego) and Oregon State University. The collaboration began investigating the spatial ecology and life history of Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands in 2001, the same year a large (~7000 fish) fish spawning aggregation (FSA) of the species was re-discovered at the western tip of Little Cayman. The intent of the program is three-fold: i) To generate the science necessary for the Cayman Islands to establish effective and adaptive management of Nassau Grouper aimed at maintaining both its ecological role on Cayman reefs and a healthy fishery, ii) To generate novel scientific findings that support management of the species throughout the Caribbean basin, and iii) To communicate the findings of the project to the Cayman government, public, and the citizens of the wider Caribbean. This latter goal is critical, as it encapsulates efforts to provide lessons learned and good-practices for other governments that seek to institute their own FSA conservation initiatives. The Grouper Moon Project targets monitoring and research at key points along the Nassau Grouper life cycle. Below we describe our research aspects in terms of the main natural history stages of the species. Subsequently, we briefly discuss our efforts to communicate our research and monitoring products to the public and policy makers.

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