Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 554: 263–280, 2016

Integrating population biology into conservation management for endangered Nassau grouperEpinephelus striatus

Krista D Sherman1, 2, Craig P Dahlgren, Jamie R Stevens1 , Charles R Tyler1
1 Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building,
2 Science and Policy, Bahamas National Trust (BNT)

Abstract: Groupers are a phylogenetically diverse group and include many ecologically and economically valuable predatory marine fishes that have experienced drastic population declines. Reproduction via spawning aggregations increases the vulnerability of grouper species such as Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus to overfishing, and this is likely to be a major contributing factor to population declines. However, the lack of information pertaining to population structure and dynamics of Nassau grouper spawning aggregations has impeded effective ecosystem-based fisheries management for remaining stocks. Worldwide, The Bahamas has the largest number of known Nassau grouper spawning aggregations, yet very little is known about the overall status of groupers in the region. Landings of Nassau grouper in The Bahamas have declined by 86% in the last 20 years from a peak of 514 t in 1997. Available data suggest that existing management measures are failing in their attempts to prevent further declines. Effective management strategies are urgently needed that balance ecological and socioeconomic considerations to enable a sustainable Nassau grouper fishery. This review provides an analysis of the reproductive and population biology of Nassau grouper and a suggested framework to direct future research efforts for enhancing conservation management of this endangered marine fish species.

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