CITA adds voice to call for grouper ban extension

| 23/09/2011

(CNS): As the fate of Cayman’s last spawning area of the Nassau grouper remains in the balance, the local private sector tourism body has joined the call to maintain the fishing ban at the Little Cayman site. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association pointed out that it is vital for the government protect to protect the islands’ natural resources in order to protect the tourism sector. It is now only a few months before the original fishing ban will expire but Cabinet has not yet stated if it will maintain the current restrictions. The Department of the Environment has strongly recommended keeping the protection for the fish which is still at risk.

Despite the eight year long ban which expires on 31 December and has gone some way to increase the numbers of this iconic Caribbean fish, the fight for survival is not over. DoE experts have explained that replenishment of grouper populations is a slow process and an extended ban is necessary to ensure that the last viable spawning aggregation (known as a SPAG) in the West End of Little Cayman – does not collapse.

It takes around seven years for the grouper to reach sexual maturity which means that the ban has not been long enough to restore the populations to such sustainable levels that fishermen could be allowed to take fish from where they are breeding.

CITA said last week that the health of the marine environment directly impacts the tourism industry as Cayman is known for its healthy reefs, magnificent diving and snorkelling, beautiful ocean views which is down to marine diversity. The Nassau Grouper is known as an apex predator on the reef and assists directly in maintaining reef health and essential to controlling the balance. More recently, marine experts have been enlisting the fish’s assistance in growing a taste for lionfish to help control that invasive species which is colonizing reefs in the regions.

Because of other marine environmental pressure scientists say that lifting the restrictions would be the death knell for the local Nassau grouper population making them reproductively extinct from Cayman’s waters. With other regional spawning grounds also at risk Cayman cannot rely on other locations to reproduce fish to populate local waters. If the Little Cayman spawning ground is lost, eventually the Nassau grouper will also be lost. As a result CITA said it was lending its support and calling on lawmakers for an extension of the ban.

The tourism body said it is advocating for a closure of fishing on all current and historical aggregation sites as well as a seasonal ban on the harvest and sale of Nassau grouper during the spawning months and is asking everyone e-mail their MLAs to tell them to support the extension of the ban on fishing in the DGSAs. People can also help by refusing to purchase grouper at the store or in a restaurant; instead, select a sustainable seafood option in its place.

The Cabinet is expected to be considering the ban request by the DoE very shortly, and public pressure to keep the ban will have an impact. At the recent meetings held by the department to discuss the overall management of the marine parks and the countries marine resources the public expressed its support for continuing the ban.

At present under the fishing restrictions on grouper no one may take Nassau grouper from any of the Designated Grouper Spawning Areas and no one may spearfish or set a fish-pot within a one-mile radius of any Designated Grouper Spawning Area from 1 November through 31 March.

The “The Mystery of the Grouper Moon” a full length documentary by George Schellenger filmed entirely in the Cayman Islands, premiered at the Harquail theatre this month which spelt out the importance of the Nassau Grouper to the entire marine environment. The documentary reveals that the spawning of the grouper in Little Cayman a few days after a full moon in the winter months is one of the world’s great migrations. However, it is this massive congregation at spawning times that have made the grouper vulnerable to fishermen.

For more information about the research conducted on the SPAGs, please contact the Cayman Islands Department of Environment at 949-8469 or log on to

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Category: Science and Nature

Comments (13)

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  1. William H. Adam says:

    Come on people it is simple!

    Kill the mommy and daddy groupers when they come together to make babies – then where are we going to get the babies needed to grow into edible size.

    Overall we have a shameful record in managing our natural environment, true there are a few exceptions.

    Some Examples:

    In 1670 they came and cut the mommies and daddies from the old Caymanian forest, our mahogany and cedar trees – no one replanted for the future, now most of our vacant land that was forest land, is scrub bushy land lying useless.  However, if planted with mahogany and cedar (the most prized of all furniture hardwoods) we could have had a small viable lumber industry supplying our famed craftsmen carpenters making exquisite furniture earning top dollar.

    Then they caught the mommy turtles by the hundreds of thousands as they came to nest – now we rejoice when one mommy turtle is seen on the beach.  Shamefully some Caymanians, yes Caymanians still take mommy turtles trying to nest.  Shame, Shame Caymanians. 

    Also SHAME ON ALL Governments to still license Turtle Fishermen to kill the very few remaining resident turtles.  THIS PROVES THAT NOT ONE MINISTER OF TOURISM UNDERSTANDS WHAT "PRODUCT CAYMAN" REALLY MEANS.  How do you value the picture of a “monster sized turtle” being the evidence of fantastic diving and snorkeling in the Cayman islands being told over and over again when our visitors return home?

    Most of our visitors come for our natural environmental beauty, with most of that being marine based – not the ugly overbearing concrete and steel monstrosities your friends build – our visitors can see big buildings every day in their home countries.

    Anything that a turtle does takes time, they take about 25 years to mature.  Stop all turtle, fishing their devastated population cannot sustain any fishing for at least another hundred years.

    Caymanians, we can and must do better to protect, preserve and enhance our natural environment for future generations, do that and we will have a sustainable tourism industry and the ability to find fish to catch to feed ourselves.

    Yes, spawning mommy and daddy groupers must be protected forever so that we have groupers on the reef to catch to feed ourselves and our visitors can see large fish when they snorkel, go on the submarine, glass bottom boats or dive.  Maybe, if we had more groupers then they would control the lion fish population.

    Catch grouper only outside of the spawning times of year.

    A positive exception: One person in North Side made a difference with the whistling duck – now after decades of protection their numbers are growing.

    Now let us follow the example of that one person, let us all become “changers” – change to become protectors of our economically important natural environment with sustainable natural environmental management practices.

    MLA’s, this time all of you do something different, do what is right for the Cayman Islands, it is past time to support the protection of our economically important natural environment, enact the “National Conservation Law” without delay, your great, great grandchildren will thank you.

    William H. Adam


  2. Anonymous says:

    And how are we going to "protect them" may I ask??  No conservation law, no powers. Take what you want seems to be governments thinking.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To end the ban would amount to insanity, and would display the vision of a bat and the brains of an amoeba.

  4. Wayne Panton says:

    Bueller I agree with you. The appropriate course of action is blindingly self evident, however, I recall seeing a copy of a letter published previously which was asking for the removal of the ban or a significant amendment which would allow a resumption of fishing in the SPAG.

    That letter was signed by a number of people inluding the Deputy Premier.

    I suspect that was merely an example of political expediency but this matter is too important to be left to speculation so we must continue to implore Cabinet to do the right thing and extend the ban! 

    • Kirsten Luke says:

      I for one was outraged that the Deputy Premier should sign such a letter – a letter that amounted to a petition.  Was she reprimanded for her conduct? 

      To me, the most incredible part of this issue is that, to protect the groupers, it would simply take a continuation of current legislation that the public are already accustomed to. Passing this legislation permanently is likely to be the easiest task that Government would do this year.  So few people benefit from the capture and sale of this endangered species, and so many more would benefit from its protection, for generations to come.

      We have managed to fish to commercial extinction all the other grouper aggregations around the Cayman Islands.  It’s not like we have been good stewards.  The way I see it, the only person who the grouper fishing ban really affects, beside the 20 or so fishermen and their families, is Juliana O'Conner-Connolly.  Please, she is worried that few fish could scupper her re-election?  If that's the case, she needs another job…..

  5. peter milburn says:

    Again I fully support this extension on the Grouper ban as without it they will surely all dis-appear and then what are we left with for out future generations?People saying how great they used to taste?For the sake of a few greedy fishermen who would like to see this ban lifted so that they can go back to their wanton destruction for the sake of a few dollars?Most fishermen that I know fully support this ban as it stands along with the Marine Parks system which was set up to help protect various species again for future generations.Maybe in the way distant future the Marine Conservation Board can revisit the whole situation once again but in the meantime keep these wonderful species alive and well for all to enjoy.

  6. Bueller says:

    Why are we even having discussions about extending the ban? The Government simply needs to get it done. Is there a single downside to it?!?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dont bother extending the ban its only one of the last nassau groper spawning areas left in the world lets
    Just fish them all out for the sake of a weeks pay do our part in the extinctoon of the nassau groupers for our own selfish whims like any other responsible country would do…
    Its ridiculous this is even a debate considering the facts!!!
    Just one more reason to be proud to be a caymanian… 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    Cabinet -what a joke. The Ministers know, realistically, they have to implement the ban extension,  but cynically they know there's very few votes in extending the ban so they will posture & take it to the wire and then say at the last minute that "our hands were tied".

    Zero respect


  9. my my says:

    Continuing the protection of the Grouper Spawning Aggregations is of utmost importance for so many reasons that benefit the economy and citizenry of these islands – even the fishermen who don't understand it.

    Sadly, this story is being buried and attention diverted by recent horrific events – but a sound economy based on tourism and a healthy environment that attracts business and jobs – and increases the well-being of all of us – enabling a focus on our youth and families – also depends upon making sensible decisions on conservation issues like this one. 

    Conservation benefits everyone – even those who think they are against it. 


  10. yes to ban says:

    MLA please support the Ban!


    It is important to protect the fish for the future…..look at the great job we did protecting the Lobsters and Conchs and now we have them to enjoy each year

  11. B.B.L. Brown says:

    I am aware that Cayman Brac XXXX isn't worth much, but there are a couple of grouper spawning areas there and they are also important for rebuilding the grouper population.  I wonder why they aren't mentioned.  Groupers saved by the grouper fishing ban are just now reaching breeding age.  If the spag fishing bans are continued there will be a huge increase in the amount of Nassau groupers in the Caymans!