Students make plea to extend fishing ban

Following are letters to the Minister of Environment Mark Scotland from students in Year 6 at Cayman Prep and High School concerning Nassau Groupers.

I am writing to you in regards to the Nassau Grouper fishing ban that expires in December, 2001. I am Canadian and partially Irish. The Nassau Grouper is the icon fish of the Caribbean. Do you really want to lose that privilege of having them in the Cayman Islands?

On the other hand, I understand that fishermen are losing money because people don’t or might not pay as much for the other fish. They already are not allowed to fish lobster and conch.

However, the whole of Cayman would lose money if people start over-fishing the Nassau Grouper because people will stop coming to the Island to see our wonderful wildlife. Divers also like to see the fish. If the adult Nassau Groupers are over-fished, then there will be no fish to reproduce baby groupers and there will be fewer visitors to dive our sea life.

Skyler O’Connor

I was born in England, but I have lived here my whole life. I am writing about the ban on fishing at the Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation sits. I strongly believe that you should extend this ban for another 10 years, otherwise they will go extinct.

I do understand that fishermen need to make money and eat. However, I don’t understand why they can’t catch a balanced variety of fish rather than just the grouper. We aren’t asking to ban fishing Nassau Grouper completely, they would still be able to fish them two miles away from the spawning aggregate sites.

As you may know, there are only 3,000 at our one aggregation site is Cayman. If they keep fishing at the aggregation sites, they won’t be able to fish them any more, so it will ruin tradition and take away all the pleasure for future generations. Although grouper is 50 per cent of the Caribbean’s favourite fish, if people continue to eat them so much, there will be no more left to eat. I don’t think people would be happy about that, do you?

Additionally, scientists are training groupers to eat lionfish and if groupers go extinct, then there won’t be enough animals eating the lionfish and they will take over the reef. I know you don’t want that; nobody does, right? Also, if the lionfish take over the reef, then tourist numbers will decrease significantly.

I would just like to remind you that if you take away the Grouper from the Cayman Islands, it would be like taking away a child from their mother. It would be taking away part of Cayman heritage.

Thank you for reading my letter and please consider my suggestion.

Amelia Pimentel

I was born in England, however, I moved to Grand Cayman in August. I am writing to you because I strongly believe that the ban on fishing Nassau Grouper should be extended. I believe this for many reasons; some of which I will state in this letter.

I understand for the fishermen that it is traditional to fish Nassau Grouper, but I think it has no stand at all. After all, is it really a tradition to fish at the spawning aggregation sites where the groupers have no chance? It is literally like shooting fish in a barrel. Furthermore, I understand that fishermen want six fish per boat. However, if you do the math, it does not look good for the Nassau Grouper.

If this law is enforced, 20 boats a day for 10 days, 1,200 Nassau Grouper will be taken out of around the 3,000 at the spawning ground and they will all be gone within one month of the ban being lifted.

One of the many reasons that I am definitely for the ban being extended, is that other groupers are, in my opinion, just as tasty. Why not take some of the other groupers, for example the Black Grouper, and let the Nassau Grouper recover for a while, protected by law, before fishermen go back to fishing them? Also, if people fish the Nassau Grouper to extinction, there will never be another chance to save them again and people will regret that they made this decision. If the ban is lifted, why don’t you raise the size limit to 18 inches? This gives the groupers a chance to spawn before they are caught, greatly increasing the amount of Nassau Grouper.

Guy Harvey, an expert on fish, states that the short ban on Nassau Grouper has not been enough for them to recover and still need more protection if they are ever to survive.

So why are the Nassau Grouper worth saving? For many reasons. Most people who have dived with Nassau Grouper would never catch one because of the Groupers’ amazing personalities. They will follow behind you when you are diving and sometimes allow you to stroke them. Who would kill a grouper after that experience?

This, in my eyes, is a very important decision. Do you extend the ban and save the Nassau Grouper or do you end the ban and let this unique race of fish perish? The choice is in your hands.

Matthew Penner

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