Grouper season closes, lobster season opens

Lobster season runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28.

Saturday, Dec. 1, marks the closing of the Nassau grouper season and the opening of the lobster season in the Cayman Islands.

Taking Nassau grouper from local waters will be illegal until the season reopens on April 30. During the closed season, anyone who takes, purchases, receives, offers for sale, exchanges or donates Nassau grouper is violating the National Conservation Law. It is also illegal for anyone to possess, or permit another person to take, Nassau grouper from Cayman waters.

The Nassau grouper is a threatened species in the Cayman Islands.

“The Nassau grouper is a protected species under the NCL, so we shouldn’t see any fresh grouper being sold in restaurants or markets during the closed season,” Department of Environment research officer Bradley Johnson said in a statement. “If members of the public do see it for sale, please don’t purchase it.“

Fishermen who inadvertently catch Nassau grouper during closed season should release them alive, even if the grouper is hurt during the catch. Using circle hooks, as opposed to J-hooks, can make the process of removing the hook from the fish’s mouth easier, as the circle hooks are designed to not hook in the stomach of the fish but rather in the mouth.

The DoE is scheduled to embark on its annual Grouper Moon project in January, monitoring the Nassau grouper population and spawning sites in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The effort will include public education workshops and possibly some on-location live broadcasts.

The closed season is part of an effort to restore the overfished grouper in local waters.

Lobster season

During the three-month open lobster season, which runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, the Department of Environment is urging members of the public to abide by the National Conservation Law.

During open season, there are strict rules regarding how many lobsters, and of what size, can be taken.

Lobster may only be taken from outside marine protected areas and only spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) may be taken. Any lobster taken must have a minimum tail length of six inches.

There is a take limit during the open season of three spiny lobster per person, per day, or six spiny lobster per boat, per day – whichever is less.

In addition, anyone who takes, purchases, receives or offers for sale, exchange or donation more than three lobster per day from Cayman Islands waters commits an offense under the National Conservation Law. Anyone who possesses more than three lobster per day, or allows another person to take, more than three lobster per day from Cayman waters also commits an offense.

The law also bans the taking of lobster, and all other marine life except lionfish, while scuba diving. Using gloves, a spear or a hook stick to catch lobster is also unlawful at any time. The preferred method of catching lobster is with a snare. Lobster snares, which can be purchased locally, allow users to humanely catch lobster and also allow the harmless release of any undersized lobster. “If you see a lobster and you are in doubt about the size and whether it is legal to take, to be on the safe side, it is probably best to leave it and look for a bigger one,” said the Department of Environment’s John Bothwell.

The DoE also asks that individuals catching lobster avoid, to the extent possible, taking females. Females can be easily identified as they have two “toes” on their hind/bottom legs nearest to the tail and will often have a black, slimy substance attached underneath them in the area between their legs.

“All members of the public who are involved in lobster-catching must obey these rules and support our efforts to preserve this species for future generations,” said Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour.

To report violations, call 911 or contact DoE enforcement officers directly on Grand Cayman (916-4271), on Cayman Brac (call 911) or on Little Cayman (925-0185). For more information on open/closed seasons for lobster, conch, whelk and other marine life, visit www.doe.ky.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This country brings in millions of dollars from scuba divers and their families. If I see one or two Nassau groupers in the 4 months 80 dives I do here each winter it is a big deal. I have done 6 dives this season on the west side and removes 3 lines with hooks. The laws are too lax and the ones we have are not being enforced. If you want divers and their money you have to have fish for them to look at. There should be areas where no one can fish ever. That way fish can reproduce. If that happens they will swim into areas where the fishermen are and everyone will be happy

  2. Our beautiful islands are surrounded by water. Yet 95% or more of the fish sold in our supermarkets is imported. Some of it from China or Thailand.

    On the other hand, as a diver myself since 1982 I have noticed that virtually all the fish have gone.

    It used to be that when you got in the water at Eden Rocks you were surrounded by sergeant majors and yellowtail snappers. Not now.

  3. Bruce and Norman, I had 4 dives this week North Wall and South Sound. I saw a great many variety of fish and of course more present on the shallower dives. I saw several Nassau Groupers on the North Wall side and the shallow dive on South Sound was like being in an aquarium with the number and variety of fish present.

    Maybe you need to change where you dive?

    I also fished two days offshore and caught Dolphin, Wahoo, Skipjack Tuna, Blackfin Tuna, Popeye and Silk Snappers, and many Barracuda.

    Maybe you should charter with the guys I fish with.

    Overall Cayman needs to be mindful of their development, reduction of mangrove swamps, turtle grass sites, and eradication of the invasive species Lionfish. Protection of areas where baitfish and fry live is paramount to supporting a renewable fish population. Seasonal fishing limits, minimum weights, and protection of certain overfished species certainly helps too.

    But it all begins with bait fish and giving them the ability to thrive. You bring back the bait and all the desired species will return.

  4. Divers should be allowed to feed the fish so that they are full when the fishermen come. I used to feed a Goliath Grouper on the Oro Verde shipwreck off of the 7-mile beach once a day. That fish would follow the glass bottom boat whenever I come and leave any other diving group with food in their hand. My secret? 5 pieces of filet of snapper. They fed it squid. After changing careers I passed one day by the fish market and there it was hanging. I recognize it because of its dorsal fin on one side that was malformed. Why did it get caught, not enough food? You are told not to wear gloves or feed fish. It is a mistake in my opinion. I have fed moray eels, Baracuda, horse-eye jacks, etc. It has to be consistent like feeding cats or dogs.