Sunday, April 10, 2011

Longer grouper ban needed

(CNS): Fishermen on Cayman Brac are finding it hard to believe that the nine year ban on catching Nassau grouper at the spawning holes during spawning season has not resulted in a significant increase in groupers, but as Department of Environment staff explained to them at a meeting Monday night, replenishment of grouper populations is a slow process and an extended ban is necessary to ensure that the last viable spawning aggregation (SPAG) site in the Cayman Islands – in the West End of Little Cayman – does not collapse. The fishermen, on the other hand, say they have done their part to preserve the grouper population by observing the ban for nine years and are asking the decision makers to remove it and reintroduce catch limits.

Research at the Little Cayman grouper hole has shown that the groupers which gather together in great numbers to spawn live around that island – there are no great migrations of grouper from elsewhere for spawning. Scientists have also found that the larvae released are brought back by the current, and so repopulates the same island. We cannot, therefore, rely on SPAGs in other countries on the region to restock our grouper population, and they don’t have much stock left in any case, DoE's Research Manager Phil Bush noted.

The grouper holes were first closed in 2003 in what was planned to be alternate years of being open for fishing. However, Bush told people packed into the conference room at the District Administration Building, it was determined that it was “mathematically impossible for the population to replenish itself if the large numbers of fish, especially the big spawners, were taken out.”

Read the whole story here.