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 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.
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.