FAO Fisheries Department

Concern over status of aggregating fish species in the Caribbean

 

21-11-2013 

The spawning aggregations of groupers and snappers in the Caribbean - the reproductive gatherings necessary to create the next generation - help maintain healthy stocks of these species, but are currently being heavily fished, causing significant reductions.

Stocks of many aggregating species and particularly groupers in the Wider Caribbean Region continue to decline. The CFMC/WECAFC/OSPESCA/CRFM* Working Group on Spawning Aggregations, which met in Miami, USA (29-31 October 2013), recorded reduced numbers of fish in many aggregations and the relatively smaller size of most remaining aggregations. Smaller aggregations of adults are producing fewer and fewer fish to replenish the region’s fisheries.



Using scientific methods and the best scientific information available, the status of Nassau Grouper (along with Goliath Grouper and several other species) stocks in the Wider Caribbean Region can be considered “overexploited” and some stocks can even be regarded as “depleted”. The two groupers are already observed to be threatened with extinction if such trends continue, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Flora and Fauna.



The actual number of fishers targeting spawning aggregations (as opposed to species that have the aggregating habit but are fished outside of their aggregations) is low. Consequently, while management aimed to conserve spawning aggregations may reduce short-term profits for few fishers, it should ensure long-term sustainable fisheries for the great many other fishers that fish outside of aggregations.



The Working Group asserted that it is vital to maintain healthy groupers and snapper fisheries in support of food security and to recognize the social and economic value of these fisheries for coastal communities in the region. And the Working Group calls for a regional closed season and concerted action by the range states of these fish species and recommends to WECAFC, CFMC and the SPAW (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife) Protocol action to stop further declines.



* This is a joint Working Group of the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC), Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), Organization for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus (OSPESCA) and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).