Protect the World's Last Spawning Aggregation of Nassau Grouper

Every year, thousands of endangered Nassau Grouper assemble on a single reef on Little Cayman for an annual spawning aggregation (SPAG) of epic proportions.  These SPAGs happen only once or twice a year, and are the species' only way of repopulating - no other mating occurs.  Thousands of fish assembled at one point for up to a week make an obvious target for fishermen, and hundreds of similar spawning aggregations throughout the Caribbean have been wiped out by intense fishing pressures.  Consequently, the Nassau Grouper has become an endangered species and is increasingly a rarity in Caribbean waters.  The SPAG on Little Cayman, and all SPAGs throughout the Cayman Islands, have been protected for the past seven years, resulting in tangible and significant increases in the country's grouper population.  Come December 2011, this critical protection will end unless the Cayman Islands' government passes legislation banning fishing of this aggregation.  Help us keep the Cayman Islands' SPAGs healthy for future generations of divers and fishermen alike!  

Dear Honorable Officials of the Cayman Islands:

Please enact permanent protections to save the iconic Nassau Grouper before the existing prohibition on fishing aggregation sites expires. Don't miss this opportunity to continue to be at the forefront of Caribbean marine conservation.

The Cayman Islands is recognized as a leader in the region, starting 25 years ago with the establishment of an extensive network of marine parks. In 2003, this tradition was continued with the forethought to protect spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper through a ban on fishing at these important sites. These actions collectively have lead to the Cayman Islands having some of the healthiest reefs throughout the Caribbean, including the largest known population of Nassau Grouper in the world and one of the last healthy spawning sites in the Caribbean.

Intensive research conducted on Nassau Grouper over the past 9 years as part of Grouper Moon Project by the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment and REEF has indicated these actions are indeed working. The ban has resulted in higher numbers of this endangered species in Cayman waters. This benefits everyone, including divers and snorkelers, fishermen, and the future generations of Caymanians. A healthy population of Nassau Grouper is also critical for healthy and productive coral reefs.

Other countries such as the US, Belize, and the Bahamas have already taken decisive action to protect what remains of their spawning populations. If the Cayman Islands fail to enact permanent protections, the last remaining viable spawning aggregation of Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean will be lost. As you may know, these fish only reproduce during their spawning season and only at specific sites, therefore protection during this critical time period is essential.

A fishing closure for Nassau Grouper during the spawning season should be implemented. I urge you to take this critical step - please protect this vital part of the Cayman Islands' economy and cultural heritage! Thank you for your consideration and attention.

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