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Species of the Day – Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus)

December 28, 2012

Species of the Day - Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus)

Nassau grouper is one of the larger reef fish that has suffered a dramatic decline during the 20th Century, primarily as a result of overfishing, It’s a medium to large grouper growing to over a meter in length and up to 25 kilograms in weight.

Nassau grouper is a top predator found primarily in the Caribbean Sea from from Bermuda and Florida throughout the Bahamas. This grouper is common on offshore rocky bottoms and coral reefs. Nassau groupers are typically solitary and diurnal that feeds mainly on fishes and crabs.

Nassau grouper is listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List based on the high rate of decline of approximately 60% within 30 years. Current population is estimated to be more that 10,000 mature individuals but the population is thought to be decreasing. Historically this fish was the most important commercially harvested fish throughout the region; demise the species is mainly due to over-fishing and loss of coral reef habitat .

Nassau grouper was the first reef fish, and one of the only fully marine commercial species, to be listed as a species of concern under the U.S.A. Endangered Species Act. There has been a complete ban on the fishing of Nassau grouper in the US federal waters since 1990 even around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is a moratorium on fishing for Nassau groupers in Bermuda. In the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Belize, Dominican Republic & Mexico the species in protected in selected spawning aggregation sites by law and Cuba has introduced a quota system on it’s fishing.

More lobbying by conservationist is required to fully protect the species from over-fishing and its Caribbean coral reef habitat, which is already faces the threat of collapse due to exploitation. Many countries in the area however, have been slow to introduce protection measures and extensive lobbying continues to save this beautiful grouper and it’s threatened habitat.

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