(CNS Local Life): Sir Richard Branson said witnessing a massive spawning aggregation of Nassau groupers was “like being in the maternity ward of the ocean, with thousands of fish mating together”. Branson made the dive off the coast of Little Cayman with Dr Guy Harvey, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE) and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) to help spread the word about protecting this critically endangered iconic fish.
Each year after the February full moon, thousands of Nassau groupers gather off the west end of Little Cayman to spawn. This concentration of fish in one area makes them an easy target for fishermen and consequently, populations of Nassau grouper have become overfished and devastated throughout the Caribbean, stated a press release from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).
REEF and the DoE have worked for 15 years to monitor and protect this species and aggregation site. Because of the ongoing research programme, education and implemented legislation including a five-month closed season and catch limits, scientists consider there is a positive trend in the recovery of the species.
Branson, who described the experience in his blog, visited Little Cayman to see if the scientific work and conservation effort could be exported to other islands.
“The Nassau grouper is such an iconic, Caribbean species. Divers love to interact with this friendly fish,” said Harvey. “As a [medium] reef predator, the grouper also needs to be protected for the health of our reefs.”
The GHOF has spent seven years supporting and promoting this spawning aggregation to local and international communities, emphasising its importance to the reef ecosystem. “We appreciate Sir Richard’s interest in this. Awareness is the first step in taking action,” added Harvey.
Category: Marine Environment