Fisherfolk credited for grouper project success

| 13/01/2020 | 20 Comments
Cayman News Service
Croy McCoy tagging a Nassau grouper as part of the Grouper Moon Project

(CNS): One of the lead scientists behind the Nassau grouper conservation project in Cayman, which is receiving accolades all over the world, has credited local fisherfolk for their sacrifice, which enabled the conservation work. Department of Environment researcher Croy McCoy, one of the lead authors on the report published in the academic press this month, said that local people who fish for a living are not getting the recognition they deserve for giving up part of their livelihood.

While the root cause of the decline of the Nassau grouper was over fishing and especially fishing at the spawning sites, the cooperation of Cayman’s fishing community has enabled the fish to begin its recovery, after they “gave up deep rooted traditions”, McCoy said at a press briefing about the work last week.

DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin warned that the recovery, which has been documented over fifteen years, is clear, with groupers on the Little Cayman reefs increasing threefold. However, he said the species is still critically endangered, so restrictions will remain in place and continue into the future.

Fishing for Nassau grouper is currently restricted to a short open season, during which people can take up to five fish of a certain size, outside marine parks. Officials believe the current situation is sustainable and will allow the fish to bounce back in the years to come while still allowing some seasonal fishing.

The complete ban on taking grouper from the spawning site will remain and divers are also banned from the those areas. The Cayman research has demonstrated that fish should never be taken from spawning areas.

McCoy said it was like going to a maternity ward and killing mothers. He said it is essential that humans leave all types of fish, not just grouper, that spawn en masse alone at aggregate sites and to sustain all the species that are threatened or under pressure.

Austin added that it is unsustainable to take fish at that time, when they are so vulnerable, as it will cause a rapid decline that takes decades for the species to recover from.

The results of this study have important implications for marine conservation, and Austin said that it is an “astounding success story” in the world of fishing, which is very rare these days. But it demonstrates that tightly controlled and enforced management works, even if it takes a long time. The success of the Nassau grouper’s recovery around Little Cayman is having a knock-on effect for Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman, even though the numbers are still much lower.

But the research has shown that almost three-quarters of the fish that are spawning at the hole in Little Cayman remain in local waters, highlighting the benefits of the slow and steady conservation measures.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (20)

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  1. Courtney Platt says:

    Nassau Grouper recovery in the Sister Isles is going well, which is wonderful news for their tourism attraction….

    CNS: The rest of this comment is posted here.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to have someone tell me to stay off the fishing grounds when my income depends on it!

    • Anonymous says:

      8:49 When it’s illegal to do so and they catch your ass out there and arrest you you wont be running your mouth so freely. Fisherman like you are the reason these fish were nearly fished to extinction in our waters. There is an open season. Fish them then by all means but you have no right to fish them at the SPAG during their breeding season. There are plenty of other species of fish to catch.

      • Anonymous says:

        He’s not a fisherman.

        The fishermen know the grouper holes have been fished out (except the one in LC, which is now recovering). They know there’s not enough fish in a big enough concentration to be financially viable any more. They were the ones identifying the problem: there’s no fish left. No one is targeting the grouper holes for cash any more.

        Don’t feed the trolls.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh jeez Croy, the ‘fisherfolk’ had nothing to do with saving the Nassau Grouper, the law did. Because unless the law banned the greedy and ignorant from fishing in the spawning zones, they would have succeeded in wiping these fish out for ever.
    Now what we need to see aren’t professional fish counters or patronizing experts, we need the effective enforcement of our existing laws to stop the destruction of all our marine creatures, including conch, lobster and turtle which are seriously struggling against poaching and general ignorance. No point in counting these creatures or slapping yourselves on the back if your not prepared to enforce the laws that allow you to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      5:42 You talk allot of negativity. Despite Cayman being a so called “small” island we have allot of coastline to cover which makes it impossible to patrol all of it at once. The DOE try their best with the staff and the resources that are available to them. While I agree that fisherman often exert allot of fishing pressure which can have a negative impact on many fish species it was actually fisherman who re-discovered the SPAG sites in the first place and alerted the DOE. I agree that there need to be tighter regulations on conch and lobster catch limits but please dont try to turn every positive step into a negative tirade. We should celebrate this achievement and it truly is just that. We are one of the few places left in the Caribbean that has a Nassau grouper spawning aggregation of this size. In a world that is seeing a declining trend in many animal and plant species stories like this truly are something to be positive and hopeful about. It shows that conservation efforts can and do pay off.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh please, get with the project. The SPAG are defined areas, it’s nothing to do with the entire coastline. The ‘fisherfolk’ were the ones that depleted these stocks through greed and ignorance. I can’t remember the last time I saw a DOE boat guarding any protected area, apart from a brief pass through. The Sandbar is the only place you will see a semi-regular attendance. DOE management are responsible for the lack of protection and enforcement, period.

        • Anonymous says:

          10:31 your talking out of your ass. The DOE is at the LC SPAG site for the entire duration of the spawning period but then how would you konw that unless you lived in LC?. They also try to be at the Brac SPAG too but the weather is often too rough (and lets face it if its too rough for the boats they use to go out no fisherman is going to be out there fishing). The grouper have predictable behavior so they can be there for when they are most vulnerable to monitor their behavior and record data. You’re just spewing nonsense and ignorance. If you think you can do a better job please go right ahead. Typing angsty comments whilst sitting on your rear is not helping with anything conservation related.

          • Anonymous says:

            No one denies the effort on LC or Brac, but where its at its worst, (on Grand Cayman) there is absolutely no effective protection, especially at night. Anyone that lives in East End, will tell you that closed seasons and bans do not apply to them. Turtle, conch, lobster and grouper are always fair game to the folk of EE, so you need to wise up to the simple fact that you can slap yourselves and the ‘fisherfolk’ on the back with these successes, but the failure to enforce the marine laws on GC is real and devastating.
            Nassau Grouper are extremely rare on GC, and were obviously in serious danger on LC and Brac because of man’s greed and ignorance. Stop praising those who are responsible for their destruction and concentrate on catching those responsible.
            As for angsty comments, what exactly are you doing, apart from sitting on your rear replying to us ignorant types?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Come next spawning season (and thereafter) I would hope vessels from the DOE/Marine Police/Coastguard will be stationed at / around these sites for the entire duration of said season because if some fisherman hear this story it will be a green light in their little minds to resume….

    • Anonymous says:

      1:55 They will be. The spawning events for the Nassau grouper are short and predictable. They call it “grouper moon” for a reason and the DOE is out there surveying the main SPAG sites for the duration of the event.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s the point, they survey NOT enforce the law. Do you seriously believe poachers only work during the day? You delusional fool!!!
        DOE don’t have either the resources or staff to guard these areas 24/7, get real.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is one of those moments where as a community we got it right. Our local fishermen generally respect their environment and there only a few of our locals who do not respect restrictions put in place. The restaurants also stopped serving grouper in support of the initiative to save the grouper. Wonderful report. Another reason I love living here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now if we can just get the supermarkets to stop selling it.

      • Anonymous says:

        More importantly, certain local restaurants that actively encourage it along with the purchase of conch / lobster out of season / in excess of daily limits……..

  6. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know what is happening with the spawning sites around Grand Cayman

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