Fight to save local groupers boosted by donation

| 05/01/2010

(CNS):  The battle to preserve the spawning grounds for Cayman’s Nasaau Grouper depends on the work of DoE underwater research which needs specialized equipment. Using conventional dive equipment researchers are limited in the amount of time they can spend at the depths where these fish spawn restricting the study of what is thought to be an ecological and economic corner stone of Caribbean coral reefs. However, a number of dive firms have come together to donate re-breather equipment that the DoE staff needs to carry out their essential work. (Photo by Jason Washington.)

“Nassau groupers tend to aggregate and spawn at depths of 130 – 200 feet which greatly limit the time and work that researchers can safely do using conventional scuba equipment. A re-breather will significantly enhance our research diver’s ability to study and tag the groupers during the annual two-week spawning cycle,” said the Department of the Environment’s Research Manager Phil Bush. “We specifically thank Nancy Easterbrook of Divetech for being instrumental in securing the donation of the deep diving equipment which will greatly facilitate our research goals.”

 Since 2004, a seasonal fishing ban has been in effect in all designated Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) spawning areas in the Cayman Islands and research has been underway to learn more about these important fish under the Grouper Moon Project.

“The research currently being conducted is very important to all of us,” added Bush. “It will help to preserve the groupers for fishermen and divers alike to enjoy for generations to come. The data we are collecting will identify the level and extent to which these very sensitive (and increasingly rare) spawning aggregations must be protected.”

Closed circuit re-breathers (CCR) allow divers to stay down longer at greater depths because unlike regular Scuba gear it delivers a constant partial pressure of oxygen.  “Having watched Dr. Brice Semmens’ fascinating presentation several times, we recognized the value of the data being collected for the sustainability of the groupers for future generations. And so we contacted several of our partners and suppliers and were successful in getting some expensive equipment as a donation to the project,” Easterbrook said.

Silent Diving donated an Inspiration Classic CCR and Shearwater Research donated a Pursuit trimix computer. Local companies PM Gas donated oxygen tanks, and Divetech donated the training and materials for DOE Research Officer James Gibb to become a certified CCR diver. Bruce and Lynn Partridge from Shearwater Research Inc. said they were pleased to offer support to the DoE and the Grouper Moon Project (REEF). 

“We applaud the efforts of those involved with the catch, tag and release of Cayman’s endangered groupers. As divers, we all appreciate a healthy fish population.  The success of this program will also contribute greatly towards a establishing a sustainable fishery in the area."

Silent Diving is the distributor of the Inspiration and Evolution rebreathers. The re-breathers are well tested both in the field and through extensive CE testing in the UK before release.  “As divers, the Grouper Moon Project made sense to us, as it is paramount to manage our marine fisheries in a responsible manner, and this takes knowledge. It was an easy decision to support this worthwhile project as we are also frequent visitors to Cayman,” said Mike Fowler of Silent Diving.

The project began in Little Cayman in 2002 as an effort to prevent the imminent collapse of what was thought to be the Cayman Islands’ remaining viable spawning aggregation of Nassau grouper (located at the west end of Little Cayman). The programme has since been expanded to include Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman.  The Grouper Moon Project is an ongoing collaborative research programme run by the Reef Environmental and Education Foundation and the DoE. For more information visit

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  1. Animaliberator says:

    Excellent deal here! Would even be better if we can ban trawler fishing boats at least out of the Caribbean sea. Read somewhere that the Japanese are right in our back "sea" yard scooping up whatever they come across without any regard for international fishing agreements. These waters belong to the Caribbean, not Japan!

  2. Peter Milburn says:

    Keep up the good work DOE and thanks to all who have supported you in this venture.This important work is not just for today.This is for our future generations who should be allowed to enjoy what we have been enjoying all these years.My thanks to all the staff at DOE and happy new year to you all.KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK.