ReefDispatch: Protections Asked for Gulf of Mexico Groupers

ReefKeeper International reefkeeper at
Wed Nov 27 09:03:45 EST 2002

For Immediate  Release:
  November 27, 2002

* Protections Asked for Gulf of Mexico Groupers                *
* Conservation Group Requests Comprehensive Grouper Management *

Miami, Florida -- Precautionary and comprehensive management for
groupers in the Gulf of Mexico is being called for by ReefKeeper
International, the coral reef conservation organization.  The public
interest group has formally petitioned the Gulf of Mexico Fishery
Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service for further
protection of these species, including spawning season fishing closures
and no-take zones.  "Groupers need enhanced and unified management now
in order to provide greater protection to species that are at risk of
becoming overfished or even endangered," stated ReefKeeper Director
Alexander Stone.  Action on the ReefKeeper requests is under
consideration by the Gulf Council, but their acceptance is uncertain.
To generate public support for protective grouper management, the
conservation group is hosting a Save America's Groupers internet
petition campaign at

According to a November 2000 study by the American Fisheries Society,
the country's oldest and largest fisheries science organization, 11 of
the 15 grouper species in the Gulf of Mexico are now vulnerable to
extinction.  "The best scientific information available indicates that
most grouper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico are at serious risk of
collapse," stated ReefKeeper's Stone.  "Precautionary fishery management
measures must be put in place now, before it is too late," he added.

ReefKeeper International has presented the Gulf of Mexico Fishery
Management Council with formal requests to implement a unified set of
precautionary  management measures for all grouper species until further
scientific information is available to manage each species
individually.  The conservation group has asked that all Gulf of Mexico
grouper species be provided with science-based overfishing limits,
partial spawning season fishing closures, no-take zones centered around
spawning aggregation sites, and scientific stock assessments to
determine the current condition of their populations.  In addition,
ReefKeeper has also asked for adoption of rebuilding plans for badly
overfished Nassau and Goliath grouper stocks.  The group's requests are
under consideration as part of the Gulf Council's present development of
Amendment 18 to its Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan.  "The federal
legal deadline for establishing overfishing limits and developing
rebuilding plans came and went four years ago," complained Stone. "No
further delays should be tolerated," he continued.

Out of the 15 grouper species fished in the Gulf of Mexico, only red
grouper, gag grouper and yellowedge grouper have ever had their
population conditions assessed.  The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management
Council Council does not actually know the present condition of any
other grouper stocks under its jurisdiction.  Due to limited staff and
resources, it would take many years to close that information gap.   "To
compensate for the lack of stock information on individual grouper
species, we're asking that management measures be applied collectively
to all shallow-water groupers as one multi-species complex, and to
deep-water groupers as another," commented ReefKeepr Director Stone.
"Fishing quotas and management decisions for each of the 2 complexes
could then be based on the known population condition of an indicator
species in each of the 2 complexes," Stone explained.

Groupers tend to aggregate in large groups during spawning months, which
makes them easy targets for fishermen. There is concern that this
decreases the reproductive success of groupers each year, leading to
further annual declines in their populations. ReefKeeper has called for
complex-wide grouper fishing closures during part of the Spring
shallow-water grouper complex spawning season as well as part of the
Fall deep-water grouper complex spawning season.  "These closures would
protect each and every Gulf grouper species during some part of its
spawning season, leading to greater reproductive success and increases
in grouper populations," said the ReefKeeper spokesman.

In addition, ReefKeeper International has requested that no-take closed
areas be considered now as a complementary management tool for grouper
species in the Gulf of Mexico.  According to the group, precautionary
measures such as closed areas are needed to offset management risk for
the many grouper species with population condition assessments still

The ReefKeeper grouper management requests are being considered for
adoption under Amendment 18 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery
Management Plan.  To generate public support for  the requests,
ReefKeeper is seeking sign-ons to a Save America's Groupers
petition at
"America's groupers need greater protection now, before they are all
overfished or put at risk of extinction," ReefKeeper Director Alexander
Stone concluded.

                            #      #      #

ReefKeeper International / Alexander Stone, Director
(305) 358-4600 or a_stone at

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Mgmt Council / Wayne Swingle, Executive Director
(813) 228-2815 or Wayne.Swingle at
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