Restoring Big Fish: Cooperative Research, Conservation, and Management Program for Fish Spawning Aggregations in the Wider Caribbean
AuthorsWilliam D. Heyman;Shinichi Kobara;Stuart Fulton;Nicanor Requena;Don Demaria;Michelle T. Schärer-Umpierre;Ana Salceda Download PDF Open PDF in Browser
Millions of people throughout the wider Caribbean depend on reef and coastal fisheries resources for their livelihoods, food security, and cultural identity. Many of the most valuable and highly sought species, e.g. many of the groupers and snappers, reproduce within fish spawning aggregations (FSA)s, where they are highly vulnerable to fishing. Many of these sites serve as productivity hotspots where multiple species from various taxonomic and trophic levels congregate for breeding and feeding. Multi-species FSA sites thus serve as ecosystem integrators where protecting small areas of the ocean can offer disproportionately large benefits to fisheries management and marine ecosystem conservation. The long-term vision of the Big Fish Program is to develop and maintain a cooperative, biophysical, integrated, and holistic research program at an expanding set of multi-species FSA locations that will serve as sentinel sites generating data and information useful for assessing and managing multi-species fisheries towards ecosystem resilience and health. The program aims to build broad consensus and cooperation among stakeholders and provide data to support stock assessments, marine spatial planning, marine protected areas, closed seasons, gear and traditional management measures such as gear, size, landings and access limits. Working at the regional scale, Big Fish offers a system to model and measure connectivity and potential impacts from fishing and climate change. Pending additional funding support, the program is being implemented in conjunction with regional partners and pilot programs in the Gulf of Mexico, the US South Atlantic, Mexico, the Mesoamerican Reef and Cuba.