The eight-year ban on fishing for Nassau groupers while they are
spawning has been extended for another eight years.
And while fishermen who make a living catching and selling the fish are
upset, they have to realise that by taking these necessary conservation
measures, we are indeed protecting a Caymanian tradition.
Fishers argue that if they aren’t allowed to fish for the groupers, the
Cayman Islands is losing some of its culture, tradition and heritage. Gone will
be the ways, they say, of teaching how to fish for groupers, how to salt it,
how to cook it and how to share it in the neighbourly camaraderie around a boat
The trouble with that argument is that if we are going to fish for the Nassau
grouper while it is spawning to teach you youngsters how to carry on this
tradition, how is the tradition going to continue once the fish are gone? The
Nassau grouper is a slow growing species that takes seven to eight years to
mature. Of the approximately 4,000 fish taken from the Little Cayman spawning
aggregation during 2001 and 2002, only 1,500 were replaced during the previous
eight year ban.
The problem was exacerbated because fishermen were illegally – and
continue – fishing the aggregations during the spawning periods. They are,
essentially, shooting themselves in their own foot. No one is denying that the
Nassau grouper is a mighty tasty fish, but if we don’t conserve what we still
have in our little neck of the Caribbean woods, we won’t be able to enjoy them
in the future – either as food or as a dive tourist attraction – and neither
will those who come after us. It will do no good to teach our children our
traditions of fishing for Nassau grouper if the fish no longer exist.
There are plenty of other fish in the sea and ensuring that the Nassau
grouper is protected will mean that those fish populations will only continue
to increase as a vital part of the chain of underwater life will have been
spared the careless actions of man.
Hopefully this newest ban will be adhered to and our Nassau grouper
populations will grow to the point that we can once again fish for them and,
indeed, pass on our culture, heritage and traditions.