Concern Over Grouper Season Extension

Bahamas National Trust officials said they are “gravely concerned” that the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources is even considering the possibility of extending the grouper season, citing the damage that such a move could have the fishing stocks for future seasons.

Meeting in Rawson Square yesterday, BNT officials, led by the Trust’s President Neil McKinney said that throughout the Caribbean where grouper had once existed, the species has been fished to extinction leaving the Bahamas as one of the remaining few places in the world where grouper is still available.

“No spawning aggregation that has been fished to extinct has ever reestablished itself. We need to bare that in mind. Once we go over the precipice we can not reestablish it. Every year someone jumps up and says we need to lengthen the fishing season. They produce no evidence as to why that is sustainable. We have many, many scientific documents explaining that the grouper needs to be left alone like any other species they have to be allowed to reproduce and sustain a certain critical mass. Without that critical mass they will be lost to us,” Mr McKinney said.

Mr McKinney added that this has happened in the United States and in Bermuda where the grouper stock has been fished out. To date, he said, the Bahamas’ sock by some scientific estimates is down 99 per cent from where they were 20 years ago.

“We are at the very, very critical threshold and it would be very foolish in our view and in the view of the scientists to start to fish these stocks. They desperately need to be able to regenerate so that we can start to have a sustainable mass.”

Since news of this story broke, an online petition has been raised to call for the continued closure of the grouper season through the winter season. As of press time last night, the petition had 1,466 signatories.