Nassau grouper

Nassau grouper

The Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is one of the large number of Perciform fish in the family Serranidae that are commonly referred to as groupers. It is the most important of the groupers for commercial fishery in the West Indies but has been endangered by overfishing.

The Nassau grouper is a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Species of Concern Species of Concern are those species about which the U.S. Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, has some concerns regarding status and threats, but for which insufficient information is available to indicate a need to list the species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Species Description

The Nassau grouper is a medium to large fish, growing to over a metre in length and up to 25 kilograms in weight. Its colour varies depending on circumstances. In shallow water, it is basically tawny, but specimens from deeper water are pinkish or red, sometimes orange-red. Individual fish also change colour as a function of motivational state. Superimposed on this base colour are a number of lighter stripes, darker spots, bars and patterns including black spots below and behind the eye, and a forked stripe on the top of head.

Ecology

The Nassau grouper lives in the sea, preferring to be near reefs; it is one of the largest fish to be found around coral reefs. It can be found anywhere from the shoreline to nearly 100 m depth. It is a fish of the western Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda, Florida and the Bahamas in the north to southern Brazil, but it is only found in a few places in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a solitary fish, feeding in the daytime, mainly on other fish and crabs. It spawns in December and January, always around the time of the full moon, and always in the same locations.

During winter, by the light of the full moon, huge numbers of fish cluster together to mate. One reason the Nassau grouper is so depleted is that its huge spawning groups make easy targets for fishermen, who scoop up large numbers of the reproducing fish. Many other grouper and snapper species are in trouble for the same reason.

Conservation

The Nassau grouper is fished both commercially and for sport; it is less shy than other groupers, and is readily approached by scuba divers. However, its numbers have been sharply reduced by overfishing in recent years, and it is a slow breeder. Furthermore its historic spawning areas are easily targeted for fishing, which tends to remove the reproductively active members of the group. The species is therefore highly vulnerable to overexploitation, and is recognised as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The United States, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas governments have banned fishing for it in recent years – in the case of the Cayman Islands, until the end of 2011 in the spawning holes, and in the case of the Bahamas, for the months of December 2003 to February 2004, with similar closures likely in future years.

Conservation Designations

IUCN: Endangered

American Fisheries Society: Threatened

Status Reviews

Sadovy and Eklund (1999) is the most complete status review of the species.

The Nassau grouper has been depicted on postage stamps of Cuba (1965, 1975), the Bahamas (1971 5 cent), and Antigua and Barbuda (1987 40c).

For Further Information

  • http://www.oar.noaa.gov/spotlite/archive/spot_spawn.html
  • http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/NassauGrouper/NassauGrouper.html
  • http://www.reef.org/data/groupermoon.html

References

  • Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is endangered and the criteria used
  • NMFS. Species of Concern Fact Sheet 2008

External links

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