ENDANGERED SPECIES, ABACO (3): NASSAU GROUPER
The Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus is one of a number of grouper species found in Bahamian waters. Of these, only the Nassau grouper is on the IUCN Red List, as Critically Endangered. When I last wrote about them they were in the lesser category ‘Threatened’.
In order to sustain a viable population, it is vital to maintain numbers and preferably to increase them year on year. Once it became clear that year-round commercial overfishing was a prime component of the steep decline in the population, a 3-month closed season during the breeding period was imposed. This has ensured that at the most critical time in the lifecycle of the species, the groupers are left alone to breed in peace and to perpetuate their species.
The closed season operates from December to February to maximise the chances of breeding success. As with some other fish species, reproduction occurs around the full moon. The fish gather at spawning sites and the process is at its height around sunset.
10 CONVENIENTLY COLLECTED NASSAU GROUPER FACTS
- 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 mainly 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
A Nassau Grouper glumly contemplates the possibility of extinction
Credits: Melinda Riger / Grand Bahamas Scuba (1, 2, 3, 5, 6); Melinda Rogers / Dive Abaco (4, 7)
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