Saturday, January 7, 2017

Great Grouper Groups

The Caribbean Sea once teemed with Nassau groupers (Epinephelus striatus), orangey-brown white-striped fish that can reach 25 kgs in size.  For most of the year, these fish are elusive, tending to hide amongst the coral and rocks of reefs to avoid becoming meals for sharks.  However, during full moons in the Northern hemisphere winter, they gather in great numbers in mating aggregations by the ocean bottom to reproduce.  Savvy fishers learned where and when to drop their nets for rich catches, and, over time, Nassau grouper populations plummeted.  Based in large part on remarkable research by brave biologists, who actually dive to the bottom of the ocean, far offshore, in the middle of the night, to observe these mating aggregations and tag their participants, conservation rules now ban the fishing of reproducing Nassau groupers.  As a consequence, populations of these fish have recently risen substantially.  My friend, Dr. Richard Nemeth, who is a Research Professor at the University of the Virgin Islands ("UVI"), has been at the forefront of this research, which was featured in Scientific American on January 5, 2017.  One of the highlights of the Biodiversity Law class I teach in the Virgin Islands will be meeting with Rick next week at UVI to discuss his research and its conservation applications.  In appreciation for the hospitality UVI always shows my students, I will reciprocate by giving a lecture there on the biology, policy, and law of deextinction.

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