Groupers live to spawn another day

| 09/12/2011

grouper face_0.jpg(CNS): The Marine Conservation Board has published a notice on the government’s gazette website announcing the extension of the grouper fishing ban in spawning areas during the spawning season. The ban has been extended for a further eight years giving the endangered fish an opportunity to continue their recovery. The extension will be welcome by the myriad groups that worked alongside the Department of Environment in order to secure an extension to the ban which was due to expire this month. The replenishment of grouper populations is a slow process and the DoE has stated that the continuation of the ban was necessary to ensure that the last viable spawning aggregation (SPAG) site in the Cayman Islands, located in the West End of Little Cayman, did not collapse.

The grouper holes were first closed in 2003 in what was planned to be alternate years of being open for fishing. However, the scientists determined that it was mathematically impossible for the population to replenish itself if large numbers of fish, especially the big spawners, were killed.

The Marine Conservation Board therefore imposed an eight year ban on all grouper spawning sites to give the Nassau grouper a chance to recover, which was due to expire at the end of this year. However, the numbers of spawning groupers have grown only by about 1500 fish. The average size is dropping and they are seeing more of the younger “teenage” fish, though there are still the larger fish, who, scientists have found, are needed to guide the younger fish to the SPAG.

Line fishing of grouper outside the spawning sites is allowed and the Department of Environment has said that 20% of the tagged groupers had been lost outside the area, and they estimate that roughly this proportion of the total population is being fished this way.

Regardless of the wealth of scientific evidence that supports the continued ban, Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who is 2nd elected member for the Sister Islands, has publicly stated that she is against it and added her signature to a letter drafted by the fishermen of her constituency in March this year addressed to the members of the Legislative Assembly, the Department of Environment and the Marine Conservation Board, saying they “strongly oppose any further extension of the prohibition on fishing in the designated grouper spawning areas” but that they supported a catch limit of 12 groupers per boat per day.

Mark Scotland, who is the minister with responsibility for the environment, has made no public comment about the extension of the ban.

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The Grouper Moon Project

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  1. Anonymous says:

    God's first covenant was with Noah and ALL the living things on the earth. The covenant was sealed with a rainbow…

    No to shooting fish in a barrel while they are spawning

  2. my my says:

    Grouper fishing is still allowed! – Just not in the spawning aggregation. Real fishing takes a little time, skill and patience.  

    Fishing out a spawning aggregation and ruining all the grouper fishing forevermore is just plain foolish. Those who really care about Cayman culture and the future of our people understand that we need to use our resources wisely. 


  3. anonymous says:

    nothing quite like a lovely grouper in a coconut run down dinner..yummy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As pointed out by Bodden Towner it is unfortunate that fisherman are not like farmers. It appears they arenot forward thinkers for some reason.

    Not only do they try to harvest 100% of the fish stock yearly but they somehow neglect and ignore where next years seed will come from.

    This attitrude is what has led us to this current situation.

    Catch all that you can then place the blame on others for your misfortune.

  5. Anonymous says:

    why are they so hard up for grouper anyway leave them alone, as far as i know they are many more speacies in the sea…try catching some grunt or google eye for a change!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is indeed good news and certainly the very first step to ensure the permanent protections of this iconic reef fish.

    And to all of those that are opposing all I have to say is that THIS IS NOT ABOUT US HUMANS (CAYMANIANS AND EXPATS) this is about the FISH!

    This has nothing to do with culture, it's nothing against fisherman, their history but it is certain about their future and the heritage they would like to leave for the future generations.

    If we humans continue to deplete the ocean of its species, I really don't see a bright future for the oceans health.

    We have to realize that at this point in the history of our civilization it's time to start reverting all of the damage we have caused and focus all our efforts in making a difference.

    The task isnot an easy one, and perhaps if it comes to change our way of living because we cannot eat ONE, just one species of fish, then so be it.

    The saddest part of the comments is that people that are opposing are using their ego to gain something out of this whole deal (wether is just wanting to have their way because they feel they are entitle of something or perhaps is just to influence people into doing something), most show that they really do not care at all about the wellbeing of this specie and perhaps any other that walks or swims on our planet.

    Again, this is not about Cayman, about their culture, their heritage, but is about the future of the marine environment and perhaps with this just one little effort we can at least ensure in the future these islands will be one of the few places in the world where people can go snorkeling or diving to see a Nassau Grouper.

    Kuddos to the MCB and all those that work very hard to ensure our Marine Environment is taking care of.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Continuing the ban is great news. Allowing fishing around a highly concentrated number of spawning grouper isn't.

    Fishers know where they're going to be and when. Fishing the fringes is still profitable and subtracting from the total numbers that should have spawned.

    This is our best chance of some recovery.

    Little, watch you're shores closely.

  8. Anonymous says:

    While I can understand tradition and the fact that grouper has been fished since there were people in the Caymans, people need to realize that the earth and it's resources are not magical and unlimited.  Things always change and people, societies and traditions must adjust to the change in order to keep up.  It wouldn't do the local fishermen any good to overfish the grouper population and destroy their spawning ground, then that tradition would be gone for good and would not come back.  This way if the grouper population is allowed time to recover from overfishing, then responsible fishing and traditions could resume eventually.

  9. Sponge Bob says:

    why are they so hard up for grouperanyway just leave them alone, by my count they are many more other species of fish in the sea to be caught… may be its time to try catching some grount or google eyes for a change!

  10. Environmentalist says:

    I'm an environmentalist, but I have to be with the fishermen on this one.  They let the DOE have their way for 8 years and now it's their turn.  If it was up to the DOE there wouldn't be any fishing ever in Cayman

    • Green Hornet says:

      You have the right to call yourself anything you want, but it's a good idea to check on the true meaning of a word or phrase before using it to refer to yourself. I quote Wikipedia:

      Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution.

      Think all those guys who reduced our turtle population to a mere endangered fraction of what once covered our beaches would call themselves environmentalists today if they could look back on what they did to this amazing animal?

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess you think that shark-finning is OK too!

    • Anonymous says:

      Fishing in a "SPAWNING AREA" is akin to slaughter! Some environmentalist you are?? I am not against fishing for grouper – JUST NOT IN THE SPAWNING AREAs – come on guys!!

    • Anonymous says:

      yeah….a caymankind environmentalist…..zzzzzzzzzzzz

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is a good start, but the ministry needs to pass a law protecting grouper during the spawning season just like with conch and lobster.  Both those fisheries are doing well in the Caymans. Woudln't it be nice if the grouper fishery was healthy as well?

    12 fish per boat per day? I trust that Ms. Juliana did due diligance in reviewing all the evidence presented to justify this number. Or was it just a simple "12 fish sounds like a nice, round number"? If so, shame on her.  If not, I hope that Ms. Julliana will make the science/evidence justifying her backing of 12/boat/day public. 

  12. Animaliberator says:

    Best news I have heard so far this year considering it is almost 2012. Not only great for the grouper to expand their population but also being one of the very few natural predators towards the lion fish, the grouper just may become our national hero at the same time.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is a christian value to never change our ways to protect species or the environment but, rather, to dominate all creatures and infidels.

  14. Paradise Lost says:


    Ignorance is bliss, but in this case it's just downright stupid.  This ban allows the grouper the opportunity to flourish.  This is a win-win for everyone.  More grouper is a good thing.  And this coming from the Deputy Premier.  Yikes!!!  

  15. Anonymous says:

    We have to police the area during the spawning from the large fishing fleets that slipin into our waters during the night and take every GROUPER with one run.. they did it to the TUNA at the twelve bank. if they find the location they will do the same to any large aggression of fish.

    Get the protection in place. 24 hours during the spawing moon.

  16. UDP Supporter says:

    This is sad news for all the good, Christian fisherman who make a living fishing the waters of the Cayman Islands. These fish have had plenty of time to recover and it now time to put this resource to good use. It's impossible to fish them to extinction but that's not what these expat "environmentalists" would have you believe!

    • Paradise Lost says:

      This is not a NEW ban it is a renewal.  What have the good, Christian fishermen been doing over the lifetime of the ban up until now?  Science trumps ignorance.  Please think as Cayman deserves better.   

    • Bodden Towner says:

      "As you sow, so shall you reap" – Fishermen are always reaping, never sowing. Farmers don't eat their seeds. 

    • Green Hornet says:

      Ignorance is bliss

    • Anonymous says:

      How many viable SPAGS are left?

      How many did we start with?

      Are you certain they can't be fished to extinction?

      We're almost there!

    • Anonymous says:

      Just to let you know the scientists at DOE are all Caymanians who care about their islands.


    • Anonnymous says:

      Do you have any proof that they cannot be 'fished' to extinction?  Anything can become extinct. Speaking of being Christian, we are expected to be good stewards of all that God provides for us – including the environment and the food that is provided therein. 

    • Anonymous says:

      If you don't believe the data provided by [and I quote] "those expat environmentalists" as you called them.

      Perhaps you will believe the date from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species, and that places the Nassau Grouper on the Red List as Endangered, so if we continue to fish them, the next category they'll be in would be extinct.

      Oh, and by the way, if those "environmentalists" were Caymanians, you would believe what they said? I didn't know you needed to be of a certain nationality to be able to perform such a job right.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Now we need to enforce to the law for it to really be a law.  

    Lets see if we can get RCIPS to use those Quad engine RHIBs for something besides taking girls out for rides!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Great!  Now can we get the National Conservation Act imposed now?  How about extending the property line of the Crown's land on the bluff face in the Brac to 20' TOP & BOTTOM?  Our indigenous animals need a natural corridor of habitat & protection from the insidious clearing & developing going on in the Brac! 


    • Just Commentin' says:

      Huh?? "…insidious…developing going on in the Brac"?  You are joking, right? Come New Year's Eve I want a few shots of what you been drinking. I was there during the holidays and it was more economically gloomy than I have ever seen it! You sure we are talking abut the same island? The situation there is more like, "no development going on in the Brac"! All the Brac contractors, merchants and realtors I talked to were lamenting that if things got any slower than it has been throughout 2011 the island  will be going in reverse.  Sad.

      Your comment about the Brac only serves to reinforce my view that the supporters of the proposed conservation law as it currently reads are generally pitifully clueless people with a horribly superficial knowledge of the issues about which the spew tripe; mostly rabid moronic tree-huggers with much more regard for the well-being of some pretty useless critters than for the economic needs and aspirations of the people. There needs to be a prudent balance but the proposed conservation law as it reads now plainly stinks of overkill, the product of a bunch of so-called environmentalists'  sweatiest most breathless anti-development wet dreams.

      I think the indigenous people of the Brac need protection from a government that does not seem to give a damn about whether Brackers starve or not – and from so called "environmentalists" hell bent on putting the damper on any development there.

      Brackers might be having a hard time paying the bills, but now – thanks to JuJu – they have some pretty parking lots!

  19. Anonymous says:

    The ban extension is most welcome.Now we will see if enforcement carries out their duty to aprehend the local poachers who defy the law. If the Grouper were able to gain sufficient size, they would become predators of the lionfish population & possibly contribute to controliing their numbers.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Bravo! This is great news. 

  21. Kosher Nostra says:

    While I long to have a good plate of grouper-old fashioned Caymanian style, I am going to have to say that I am VERY HAPPY the grouper ban has been extended!  

    I may enjoy one or 2 servings, but our visitors who even name the special grouper visits from where ever every year adds  to the economy.  


  22. Anonymous says:

    This is the best news reported on CNS for a while. Thank goodness this species will continue to be protected. I frankly do not believe grouper fishing during spawning season can ever be allowed again as we have seen what can happen.

  23. Peter Milburn says:

    Super job by all concerned.I know quite a few fishermen who also support this extended ban and that says a lot.Times are changing and we must keep up the effort(s)Next stop THE NEW  CONSERVATION LAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Spot Bay Boy says:


    death to a culture. We as a people constantly bicker and ridicule the death of our cayman culture in every change that comes around. The government officials bash teenagers and music artists for the change in what our children listen to, and how the media has changed our children's behaviour. I pose this question, How can we teach our children a cultural skill if we ban the use ofit? I watched my Father and Cousin go to grouper hole and come back, smelling of salt and sea. Their hands rough and their faces worn. The smell of grouper, turbit and snapper floating around the boat as if the air we breath had become an aquatic array. Watched then clean, share and divide fish on the shore whilst my aunt and older cousins sold and weighed it. I was merely a boy. How i longed to go out there and earn my own way into my culture. Then, when i was old enough the first ban was put into place. Understandably, but it was put into place with the promise that when the time was up a compromise would be made. Old fishermen died that day. Maybe they didn't die physically, But a Part of them was destroyed forever. And my dream was lost. I watched as my cousin passed away, my great uncles all old men can never go back on the ocean, and my fathers illness almost destroy him. When it was announced that it was time to be lifted my father took great pride in going to the public meeting and was destroyed when he was told that the ban was going to be extended. I watched, as a part of my culture, that i will now never be able to enjoy with my own father as caymanians of old did was taken from me. I am a Bracker, and i one day will fish grouper hole. It is a shame that i will never be taught how to do it properly, with pride, and with love for what my caymanian ocean and heritage has afforded me.  We Stand together for something or we die, for nothing.  

    • Paradise Lost says:

      Wow!!!  Again, you can still fish for grouper you just cannot fish in the SPAG.  Why is this so hard to understand?  If you allow the grouper to re-populate generations of Caymanians to come will be able to fish them.  Once a specie is extinct, it's gone.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.  History.

      Do you want to be part of a generation known for this?   

    • Bodden Towner says:

      See comment 22.26 by the Green Hornet

    • grouper moon says:

      Your culture will be long gone if you fish out the grouper spawning holes as you have done in the past – the same way it will be gone unless control of over-fishing of any kind – be it lobster, conch or any other species. Now we need to expand the Marine Protected Areas as is being done ALL OVER THE WORLD so that you and your family – your children and grand children – will continue to have fish to catch long into the future.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spot Bay Boy.  So you are really criticizing a few of your fellow fisherman, who abused the Grouper holes over the decades, and reduced them, I understand,  from over 40 to just one. When one hears the stories of individuals catching over a thousand fish at spawning time, thereby forcing some sort of control on fishing by the Government, your romantic stories of fishermen with "hands rough and faces worn',  sound a bit hollow.


      Whether you like it or not, the Grouper populations, as well as almost everything else on our reefs, have been drastically reduced, and they now require time to recover. Nature can take only so much. I believe it's eight years since the ban was introduced, and a female grouper takes from four to eight years to reach sexual maturity. Not much sense in ending the ban now, eh?


      I don't question your emotions, but you should place the blame where it belongs, on the custodians of the sea, the fishermen, not those who are trying to undo the damage caused over the years, using scientific methods undreamed of in bygone days.


      I'm sure there are those now in Italy or Malta. who are bleating because they can no longer blast away with their shotguns at the millions of migrating birds, and perhaps they reminisce, with moist  eyes, of the days when their father first allowed them to handle a shotgun, and how, with gun-powder on their jerkins and burrs on their britches, they would return home with strings of  pretty warblers and finches looped over their shoulders, but times have changed, Boyo, and the world's population is no longer 2.5 billion, it's over 7 billion.


      I remember the days when, with mighty hickory-shafted axe resting on his left shoulder, my grandfather would trudge into the Giant Redwood forests of southern California, and emerge days later with redwood chips in his tousled hair, corded and glinting muscles filling out his thorn-proof cotton shirt, and with freshly minted gold dollars dully clinking in his pocket, having felled a 350 foot leviathan of the woods. How I longed to follow in his footsteps. Well, I made that story up, but  I rest my case.

    • Anonymous says:

      Get over yourself. Your traditional Cayman culture didn't include the use of computers, but you obviously use one now. Why the flexibility only when it suits you?

    • Anonymous says:

      Death to a culture? If a culture depends on the complete extinction of the Groupers, then perhaps we are all doomed because we humans are most responsible for the overall condition of all the species of this planet.
      I think for once we as humans (regardless of our nationality) need to stop being so egocentric and realize that this is NOT about us, but about saving another species that we have also hurting we our overfishing.
      This is an opportunity to do something good for once

    • Just Commentin' says:

      Traditions and cultures are never static and set in stone – they evolve. We are not giving up our heritage or killing our culture, but improving it, if we incorporate into that heritage a healthy and prudently protective attitude toward the land and its bounty. We will be far better off as a culture if we teach our children a more excellent paradigm and establish a tradition of responsible stewardship of our land's natural resources.

      Spot Bay Boy, you lament the extension of the ban, but… ahem…you left a few things out in your oh-so-nostalgic and heart-rendering story about traditional grouper fishing:

      Ironically, you totally completely left out the real traditional old Bracker way of fishing the Grouper Hole! As a "yout" you can only recall the modern new-fangled way of easily exploiting and killin' out the groupers. This is not the traditional way that real men fished the grouper hole. You probably can only recall the soft lazy man's way to fish grouper.

      So let's you and me talk real Bracker culture and tradition! Before the modern bunch of fishermen killed it.

      Traditionally, in the real traditional days of grouper fishing, grouper fishermen fished with laid twine line wrapped around a carved wooden spool. They got to the grouper hole the traditional way, in a hand made wooden cat boat powered by either the wind or by hand made sculls (oars) secured to the rail of the boat by two thatch rope loops. No tradition-killing trailered fibreglass boats with emission spewing gasoline motors. If there were a lot of boats on the hole and the wind too variable for all to put down keligs they "kept up" over the hole by use of their sculls and muscle power.

      So, with a keen appreciation for real Spotteh-Bay style fishinin', I would love to see you get up at 2AM to prepare to sail to the grouper hole and get there by first light. If you did not catch a mess of hard-head squirrels and/or sea cats the afternoon before you will have to stop to fish for bait. Then you might have to use sculls to keep up over the hole all day. Your partner fishes, you pull to keep up. Then after a while you spell off and change places. Can you handle it? I doubt it.

      I would like to see your hands at the end of a day alternating with fishing with laid twine and keeping up with hand hewn sculls. You fish all day, then sail back to the Brac – it might be a far longer sail back against a freshening down-easter in your teeth…you will get home by dark…if you are lucky.  Sometimes the wind drops out. This means "pulling" (using yah sculls) all de way home to Spotteh-Bay. God help you if bad weather makes down and catches you while you are in a small cat boat in the bogue, with the boat laden with a big catch. (You may need a change of nappys if the weather is really bad.)

      Ahh, finally back to the Brac! You "catch a smooth" and scull like hell to get into the barcadare safely. Once inside the barcadare, you strain to pull up your boat on charred thatch log rollers and wash down the boat. Once safely home, your "traditional" day is not done yet by any means: you still have to clean the fish. Since you are so into traditional stuff I am sure you will agree that to put the fish into the freezer would be blasphemy against "original" Caymanian cultur. So you must salt the fish and hang it before making end to your 20 hour long traditional fishing day.

      Now that you know what "real" traditional grouper fishing is all about, next time you recall your fishermen family trailering their boats to the ramp and gunning their motors to get to the hole and using mono line to catch the fish and powering back to the Brac in time to divide the fish and pop those fillets into the freezer and still catch Mr. Roy's gas station before he closes, try to count how many traditions they "killed" along the way, OK?  The blood of dead culture is on their hands, too.

      Since you and I are all for tradition and since you cite demise of tradition fishing as a reason to lift the ban, I would be all for lifting the ban in favour of totally "traditional" ol' time real-man Cayman Brackah grouper fishinin'. I am sure you would too..right?  So… we ban all non-traditional tings involved. Only han-made wooden boats allowed. No mechanised power, only sail power or sculls. Only hand made canvas sails. Only thatch rope as a kelig line. No monofilament or other synthetic fishing line. No plastic reels. Hand-line fishing only. No store-bought bait. No ice chests. No cold drinks. No beer. No store-bought bottled water. No processed pre-packaged snacks on board. No storing the grouper in the freezer – salting only allowed. (Did I leave anything out?)

      Ok, now for a show of hands among those die-hard "traditional" Brac fishermen on a vote for my proposal to lift the ban to allow for traditional-only grouper fishing. (Hey…guys! Guys? Uhh…where did everybody go?)

      PS: This comment does NOT mean I have become a moronic tree-hugging so-called "environmentalist", but that I support a reasonable balance between the natural environment, the built environment, and human needs and aspirations.

    • Old Money says:

      My forefathers made the family fortunes in the slave industry exporting men, women and children to the new world.  They would return to Bristol rosy cheeked and prepare for another trip.  That was my culture and history.  By your argument I should be entitled to carry it on as a cultural skill.

    • Anonymous says:

      Suppose the ban was lifted.  It is likely the grouper would be fished to the point of extinction, which is what was happening when the ban was begun.  And when the grouper are all gone, then your tradition dies.  And you would have been the one that "killed" it.

      Your approach would be to revive the tradition until the grouper are gone and the tradition ends.

      The current approach is to protect the grouper until they are able to withstand the onslaught of fishermen at which point the ban should be lifted.  And the tradition continues.

      It seems to me that you are not arguing for the tradition but against it.


    • Anonymous says:

      Spot bay boy. They will hate you for what you have said becuase it is from the heart they will rejoice that they have taken some thing else away from us as Caymanains even your own will smile at your pain.They came to Cayman saying they are going to make it better all thats happening is they are taken away our way and replacing it with what? Nothing of value. O how we have lost Cayman. All that they say would have value if the large companies over sea's wheren't catching the same fish that we are ban from getting. The rich getting richer the poor getting poorer mandated by good sounding cuases that protect some one's profits over sea's and we allow this to happen.

  25. MN says:

    Good start!……….

    Great news!

  26. GR says:

    What good news!

  27. Green Hornet says:

    Science wins out over ignorance. There is nothing worse than those who, for their own selfish gains, deny the logic of scientific evidence of the kind obtained during the past 10 years of research into Cayman's Nassau grouper and its spawning zones. This can be applied to almost any environmental concern in Cayman. Where science and logic point the way to obvious solutions, ignorance and pig-headedness – plus greed, of course – overule many of these solutions. Look at any environmental problem here – and you will find the cause is a state of mind all too common. No wonder it is hard to resolve these concerns. Fortunately, the Marine Conservation Board is run by those who understand that all life is not for sale at any cost.

    • B.B.L. Brown says:

      Excellent comment, Mr. Hornet!  I agree with your observation that a few people deny the truth for their own selfish gain……… and I believe that you could extend that observation to certain politicians who might deny the truth for a few more votes.  I say "Hurrah!" for our DoE!  Now just keep the thieves out of the spags!!!

  28. Len Layman says:

    This is extremely good news.  Thanks to those politicinas that made this possible and the groups and individuals that lobbied for it.

    This will benefit not only Cayman but the Caribbean.  Grouper will be available for the reefs and the fisherman for years because of this.

    Please follow the regulations, fishermen, when it comes to grouper.  It will be in the best interest of all concerned.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Any other action would have been crashingly irresponsible, and it is truly sad that Juliana provided opposition to the ban, instead of listening to the scientists involved, and doing the right thing by supporting their position, particularly in light of the recent Lionfish invasion.


    Until Cayman can point to thirty or forty functioning spawning holes, which is still far less than we  started with, they should be off limits entirely. Catching pregnant females amounts to eating your seed-corn, which is an absurdity.  Our track record of managing these fish stocks amounts to prolonged rape of the reefs, which form  a major underpinning of our economy.

  30. Kirsten Luke McCord says:

    This is great news CI MCB – THANK YOU!!!  I believe the DOE, REEF, the MCB and all the supporters of the Cayman Nassau grouper effort have just saved the Nassau grouper from extinction.  This fishing ban is a very big deal for the species.  The Cayman Islands is extraordinary in having what is sure to be the largest Nassau grouper spawning aggregation left in the world.

    I hope that between now and 2019 one of our elected governments will find the balls to pass some real environmental legislation.  In the meantime, the Nassau grouper lives to see another winter moon. 

  31. Anonymous says: