BAHAMAS Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) yesterday urged Nassau grouper lovers to support the closed season and choose an alternative fish as the endangered species is off limits for the next three months.
In a statement yesterday, BREEF warned that baby groupers were on the way, stressing the fish grows slowly taking more than seven years to reach sexual maturity.
"Around the winter full moons, they form large groups called spawning aggregations or 'schools' to reproduce," the BREEF statement read.
"Their habit of aggregating together in predictable times and places to reproduce has led to the collapse of the fisheries in many other countries as well as it being listed as 'endangered' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"It is critically important that the closed season continues from December to February and is enforced effectively, particularly from foreign poachers, but also from local illegal fishing.
Many fishermen have reported seeing more young Nassau grouper in the sea than in the past, and this may be a result of the closed seasons allowing their parents to spawn in previous years.
"The closed season, along with the creation of new marine protected areas that safeguard important habitats and act as fisheries replenishment zones, are our best tools to sustain our fishing industry in the face of fishing pressure, coastal development, natural disasters and other threats.
"BREEF is working with fishermen, scientists and other partners to better understand the remaining grouper spawning aggregations and determine how best we can protect them."
The conservation group thanked law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Marine Resources, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for their work to protect the country's marine heritage.
The statement added: "We can all do our part to protect the Nassau grouper for future generations by obeying fisheries regulations, observing the closed season by not catching, purchasing or selling Nassau grouper during the closed season, asking government to both manage and establish more Marine Protected Areas to protect Nassau grouper spawning and home sites and last but not least, reporting any illegal activity to law enforcement agencies."
For more information about the Nassau grouper closed season and why this species is endangered, visit the BREEF website at www.breef.org or call our office at (242) 327-9000.
The closed season begins December 1 and runs through the end of February.