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UVI to Raise Awareness of the Endangered Nassau Grouper

UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies and the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service are working to reinvigorate the “Bringing Back the Nassau Grouper Campaign.” The campaign was first launched about 10 years ago when lots of baby (juvenile) Nassau grouper started to be seen along the shallows of many bays around St. Thomas and St. John. Since Nassau grouper are endangered and protected in local and federal waters, it’s illegal to catch and keep Nassau grouper. 

“UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies launched the Bring Back the Nassau Grouper campaign to make sure people understood that the Nassau grouper needs all the help it can get to rebuild its populations” said Dr. Rick Nemeth, research professor at UVI.  The large influx of baby Nassau grouper has not happened until last year.  “We are very excited to be seeing lots of juvenile Nassau grouper again and want to make sure everyone knows about it and help us document where they are” Nemeth said. 

The main goal of the program is to work alongside commercial and recreational fishermen within the territory to help reduce major threats posed to the endangered species of fish – the Nassau grouper. Fishermen are given fishing kits that allow them to collect useful data that helps  UVI researchers better understand distribution and genetics of these fish. All-important data collected by fishers can be used to help understand what these fish  need to rebuild their populations. The ultimate goal will be to have the populations vibrant again so that it can become part of the local fishery again. 

The University, which hopes to resume this campaign by April 2016, will distribute fishing kits to the office of Fish and Wildlife. Recreational fishermen who are interested in contributing can post their Nassau grouper sightings at: https://www.geocas.org/CitizenScience/CitizenScienceGrouper

The Nassau grouper is an important component to the reef ecosystem in the Caribbean. Once wide spread, the Nassau grouper fishery collapsed in the 1980’s due to several decades of intense fishing. They have been slow to recover and were placed under protection in the early 1990’s. “More is needed to help bring back the Nassau Grouper,” said Howard Forbes, Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service coordinator on St. Thomas. “The awareness that this campaign attempts to raise will help to educate the community about the importance of these fish.”  For more information contact Forbes at howard.forbes@live.uvi.edu