NASSAU GROUPER: ENDANGERED… AND PROTECTED
Most creatures need some space for creative activity of one sort or another. Especially one particular sort, namely breeding. And for vulnerable and endangered species, this is especially important in order to maintain a sustainable population, and preferably to increase it year on year. Which is why there are closed seasons for certain fish, ensuring a time when they can be left alone to breed in peace and to perpetuate their species.
The Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus is just one of a number of grouper species that inhabit Bahamian waters. They are mostly found in the Northern Bahamas but only the Nassau grouper is on the IUCN Red List as an Endangered Species in need of protection.
WHY ARE THESE FINE FISH ENDANGERED?
Sad to say, mankind is the main cause of the population fragility that has led to the official listing, and the imposition of a strict closed season for 3 months between December 1st and February 28th. Scientific studies have shown that commercial overfishing has reduced a thriving population to fewer than 10,000 mature fish. That may sound plenty to be going on with… until you consider that a net annual loss of only 10% would lead to extinction in a decade.
10 CONVENIENTLY COLLECTED NASSAU GROUPER FACTS TO PONDER
- An adult can grow to more than a metre long, and weigh 25 kg
- They tend to be solitary daytime feeders, eating small fish & crustaceans
- Their large mouths are use to ‘inhale’ or suck in prey
- The colouring of an individual can vary from red to brown
- These fish have little black spots around the eyes (I’ve no idea why).
- Their habitat is in the vicinity of coral reefs, from shallows to 100 m deep
- Spawning occurs in Dec & Jan during a full moon
- Large numbers gather in a single location to mate in a mass spawning
- These groupers are slow breeders, which compounds the overfishing problem
- They are easy mass targets at spawning time; hence the need for a closed season
Department of Fisheries information sheet (interesting if you have the time)
A Nassau Grouper glumly contemplates the possibility of extinction
Credits: all photos, Melinda Riger; Infographic by Royal Defence Force (tip o’ the hat to Char Albury); Info Sheet, Dept of Fisheries
After our 1st 2 days after sailing to he Bahamas, we opted to not shoot any more groupers due to the fact we could get so many other excellent species that we didn’t need to kill these more intelligent creatures for food. They often became “friends” of ours when we frequently anchored in certain areas to the point they would recognize us year after year.
Hi Rick, good to hear from you. That’s an excellent point – plenty of other fish in the sea, as the saying goes. My impression, rightly or wrongly, is that they were being harvested as they gathered in large numbers for spawning – ie the current closed season. Not even sporting. It’s another good point that they – and other sorts of grouper – become friendly with local divers; and often they get pet names. All the best, RH
Wonderful post, RH. I appreciate that you inform us about the many species in danger, other times, and today with the Nassau Grouper too. And Melinda Riger’s photos are top-notch, as always. I especially like the photo of the face-front one who is glum about the potential extinction.
Vulnerable creatures are always problematic when they are traditionally taken by local fishermen and divers for their own plates, as it were… then commercial enterprises zero in on the stocks. Enough to make any fish look down in the mouth!
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