Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Nassau Grouper season opens in Belize

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The Nassau Grouper season in Belize is officially open from April 1st to November 30th. However, the Fisheries Department reminds fishermen about the critical status of the Nassau Grouper, the importance of responsible fishing practices, and adherence to fisheries regulations.
Nassau Groupers are large fish with a pale tan or gray body, identified by four to five irregular dark stripes, black dots around their eyes, and a large black saddle patch on their tail. They grow up to three feet in length and weigh around 55 pounds as adults. They live in warm waters, including the tropical and subtropical waters in the Caribbean and western North Atlantic. Their habitat is associated with hard structures like reefs (both natural and artificial), rocks, and ledges.
Nassau Groupers are late-maturing, long-lived, top-level predators. They are vulnerable to overfishing due to several factors, including their slow maturation process, which means that both adults and juveniles are fished from the population each year. Recovery time can be lengthy before the population returns to normal. The size of the fish can also be negatively affected if they are caught before spawning.
Fishing for Nassau Groupers is popular in several destinations, including the Florida Keys, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canary Islands, Gibraltar Straits, Madagascar, Seychelles, Andaman Islands, and Australia. However, the characteristics of this fish, combined with its relatively strong demand for grouper fillet and roe (eggs), suggest that measures are taken to ensure that this fishery does not collapse.
Nassau Groupers need protection because their populations are declining. The situation is not unique to Belize, as Nassau Groupers in the Caribbean are also declining. Some countries have gone as far as closing the fishery to protect them from extinction. Other countries, including Mexico and the Cayman Islands, have instituted fishing restrictions.
Belize has made several efforts to conserve this species, including establishing marine reserves at some spawning aggregations. However, due to the continued decline in annual catches, additional measures may be needed to protect this species and the fishery industry that it supports.
In Belize, the following regulations apply to Nassau Groupers: no person shall take, buy, sell, or have any Nassau Grouper less than 20 inches or greater than 30 inches in total length, and all Nassau Groupers are to be landed as a whole fish.
The Fisheries Department wants to remind all island residents and fishermen about the importance of following proper fishing guidelines and the Nassau Grouper. They kindly ask residents to follow responsible fishing practices and adhere to the fisheries regulations by avoiding illegal activities and practicing responsible fishing to ensure the sustainability of this species. For more information, visit https://belize.oceana.org/.

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