In the Southeastern US and in the Caribbean, overfishing has driven Nassau grouper stocks below sustainable levels and has even eliminated them from much of their range. Nassau grouper are currently protected in state and federal waters, and are a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Belize contains some of the last large spawning aggregations of Nassau groupers in the Caribbean Sea. We are studying population trends and movements of groupers in order to identify strategies to conserve this valuable species.
Nassau groupers aggregate in large numbers at the full moon in January to spawn. We make population estimates of spawning aggregations using SCUBA techniques. During this study we tagged about 500 groupers using dart tags; we also placed sonic transmitters in 45 fish and are tracking their movements to and from the spawning site to determine site fidelity and movements of individual fish. Our work has resulted in increased conservation of Nassau groupers.
Starr, R.M., E. Sala, E. Ballesteros, and M. Zabala. 2007. Spatial dynamics of the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) in a Caribbean atoll. Marine Ecology Progress Series.Vol. 343:239-249.