The Nassau Grouper Closed Season began on December 1 and will now take place every year. Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) would like to applaud the strong commitment that the government has taken to protecting the Bahamian fishing industry by legislating the annual Nassau Grouper Closed Season between 1st December and 28th February. This clear legislation eliminates any confusion related to the closed season that in the past had been announced on a year-by-year basis. The closed season is a critical tool for protecting this important fish for future generations of Bahamian fishers and the public.
The Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) grows slowly, taking over seven years to reach maturity, and it has the habit of aggregating together in predictable times and places to reproduce. These characteristics have led to the collapse of the fishery in so many other neighboring countries, and has resulted in its listing as “endangered” by the IUCN. We certainly want to avoid a complete fishery collapse here in The Bahamas. Research carried out by BREEF and partners such as the Bahamas National Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Exeter, Shedd Aquarium, the Perry Institute of Marine Science, the Department of Marine Resources and others over the years, have documented a decline in the numbers of Nassau groupers at spawning aggregation sites. The newly-legislated closed season between the 1st December and the 28th February each year will give the Nassau grouper a chance to reproduce and create the next generation of fish.
It is critically important that this closed season is enforced effectively, particularly from foreign poachers, but also from local illegal fishing. BREEF thanks our enforcement agencies for their work to protect our heritage, and hopes that new technology and resources will be able to more effectively protect our waters from international poaching. BREEF also calls on all members of the public, fishermen, restaurants, to abide by the new law and refrain from catching, buying, selling or offering for sale this fish during the December-February closed season.
The Bahamas has taken a leadership role internationally in protecting our marine environment and the stocks of this and other commercially important species through the legislation of this of country-wide closed season, and by the creation of new Marine Protected Areas that protect important habitat and serve as fisheries replenishment zones. These management measures serve as insurance to sustain our fishing industry in the face of other threats and natural disasters, helping to ensure that we have fish for the future.
Since 1993, BREEF has worked to promote awareness of the plight of the Nassau grouper and has implemented extensive public education and awareness campaigns about this fish to the point where there is a groundswell of public understanding and support for the closed season. This is especially apparent among our young people who will be most affected by the actions that we do or do not take now with respect to safeguarding our Nassau grouper stocks. More information can be found at www.breef.org.