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Nov 30, 2001

Bz. groupers threatened with extinction

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They might look big and ugly but they sure taste good, so maybe that’s why they’re a favourite of fishermen and dinner plates alike. But today, one species of Belize’s fish population is now threatened with extinction. Jacqueline Woods reports on the plight of the grouper.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

There are about twenty-five different species of grouper in Belize

that gather at thirteen sites in the first moons in December and January to spawn or produce eggs. But it’s also one of the most riskiest times for the fish because fishermen take advantage of those days and easily make some of the biggest catches of the season.

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator

“Studies have shown that during this time, since the fish are in one big mass, and they have developed healthy appetites because they are in the process of reproduction, that they bite a lot and they are easily caught, mainly because of them being concentrated in one place.”

The activity has caused such a significant decline in the fish that if not controlled, the Nassau Grouper in particular, will become extinct. Fishermen admit that due to their actions, the fish are now harder to find.

Beverly Wade

“Actually we are quite encouraged by the attitude of the fishermen, because they have been the users of this fish for the last fifty, sixty years, and they have seen the decline and I think the fishing community in general, the feeling is that they want to see sustainable management of the resources in Belize. I truly believe that they believe it’s in the best interest to manage the fisheries properly since their livelihoods depend on it.”

A Spawning Aggregation Committee was established to discuss the issue and formulate a plan of action that would sustain the management of the Nassau Grouper and their aggregation sites. Today, the group met with fishermen and other interested parties and shared with them their recommendations.

Beverly Wade

“The main recommendation is to really have a close season for these aggregation sites, that fishing isn’t really allowed during this time to see if it will allow the groupers to come back. Because our experience locally is that there is not very much data showing aggregation sites recovering after they have disappeared and Belize do have extinct aggregation sites.”

It was also agreed that because there is hardly any information on activities that take place at spawning sites, there needs to be continued data collection at the locations. Wade says they hope to put the recommendations into effect sometime next month. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.

Spawning sites for the grouper include Rocky Point, Mauger Caye, Blackbird Caye, Dog Flea Caye, Caye Bokel, Caye Glory, Gladden Spit, Halfmoon Caye, Middle Caye, Northern Glovers, Sand Bore Caye, Seal Caye, South Point and Sapodilla Range.

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