Editorial for February 9: Conserve to save grouper

Fishermen have waited almost eight years to get back to Nassau Grouper honey holes and now there is a possibility that they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

A ban on the spawning holes for Nassau Grouper came about in 2003 after the Department of Environment and others conducted studies of the areas to determine the population numbers of the fish.

What they found were depleted numbers.

It was determined that the only way for the Nassau Grouper to survive was to put a ban on fishing the eight spawning areas in the Cayman Islands.

Fishermen complained then about the ban, but most of them agreed to keep their baits and hooks out of the holes.

Unfortunately not everyone took the ban – and indeed the law – to heart and there has been poaching by a few unscrupulous fishers. We hope that those who have been caught taking fish from the breeding grounds are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

It is because of the actions of a few that a majority of the fishermen may have to contend with the ban not being lifted. DoE has to be able to ensure future generations that there will be enough Nassau Grouper for everyone to catch and make a livelihood.

And at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.

Keeping the honey holes closed to fishing is about preservation and saving the Nassau Grouper from extinction in this generation.

Fishers haven’t been banned from catching grouper, although there are size limitations; they just can’t be caught in the spawning areas just yet.

While Cayman’s tradition is to be able to fish these spots, fishers have to realise that conservation measures have to be in place for the greater good.

It had to be done for turtles, conch, lobster and whelks. Today we still have the ability to eat those items from the sea because of conservation efforts.

While we are limited in how many conch, whelk and lobster we can take from the sea, we do have the privilege of still being able to consume them.

It is hoped that DoE and fishers work out something that will put a piece of grouper on the table while ensuring that this species of grouper has a sustainable future.

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