* In this article “rockfish” means black grouper. Rockfish is what people know them as in Bermuda.
* This may be off topic from the site you're on. I'm just posting this everywhere I can to spread the word.
This is an important issue which needs to be resolved or else the black groupers of Bermuda will be driven to reproductive extinction.
Back in the day of fish pots, there was a massive toll being taken on the grouper population. Many were brought down to near extinction, as we can now see in the depressingly low numbers of Nassau Groupers today, also known as Hamlets. Fish pots have been banned for well over a decade, and the Nassau grouper population has not been able to recover. That being said, once a species is considered endangered, it is often too late to be able to save it, and it will be gone for many generations. The only reason black groupers were able to survive was because some of the males became so big, they couldn't fit into the average fish pot, hence some were able to survive. Their reproductive behavior was both spacially less predictable and spread out over a longer time period than the Nassau groupers, which prevented them from being targeted with fish traps during their most vulnerable period. The Nassau grouper on the other hand reproduced in a very narrow time period in the same location, which allowed the pot fishermen to slaughter them to the point of viable reproductive extinction. Over about ten years, the rockfish population, after the fish pot ban, was able to increase. They are now the only remaining large grouper species in Bermuda.
Now, their population of probably only a few thousand individuals is rapidly decreasing. Far to many rockfish are being caught daily for them to be able to sustain this mortality. They are being fished for in their entire range of habitat. They have no safe haven. They are always at risk. This is because of a recently developed technique of fishing that involves trolling that will indiscriminately catch black groupers of any size. This new fishing pressure has resulted in a harvest of black groupers that is unsustainable, and if it is not reduced, will result in the extinction of the black grouper population.
All black groupers begin life as females, and when they reach between 55 to 60 pounds in Bermuda waters, they become males. Black groupers in Bermuda are genetically unique, which means all of the future generations of black groupers in Bermuda will depend on a viable reproductive population in Bermuda to sustain the population. Currently the size limit for rockfish is only 75 cm, and at that size they weigh slightly less than 20 pounds. The amount of rockfish being caught cannot be sustained and soon they will become, as mentioned earlier, screwed.
There are a few possible ways to help the rockfish. There could be an increase in the minimum size, or the period of their harvest could be reduced by the creation of an off season. Both of these would need enforcement, along with more intense fines, because the current fines are pathetic and fishermen can still have a profit even after they've paid their fine. The fines, in essence, must be a strong deterrent, because currently they are ineffective.
The increase of size should be be such that the minimum size would represent the size of transition from female to male. This would ensure that there would be minimal mortality in the female population, and that there would be a constant recruitment of new males.
The off season would be good if it were from May 1st to October 31st, which would allow the majority of the reproductive spawning aggregations to be unhindered from fishing pressure.
This demise of the black grouper is fast coming, but preventable. The sooner the government decides that it is a good idea to not allow this magnificent species to disappear, the better. It is up to them.
FOR A WEALTHY COUNTRY LIKE BERMUDA THERE CAN BE NO EXCUSE FOR LETTING THE BLACK GROUPER DISAPPER, ESPECIALLY SINCE WE HAVE SEEN IT HAPPEN BEFORE (WITH OTHER GROUPER SPECIES) AND IT IS PREVENTABLE.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD IF YOU WANT THE FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY THIS GREAT FISH.
My dad is a licensed fisherman who has been responsibly catching rockfish for decades, and does not want to see them become unnecessarily extinct.
AGAIN, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD TO SAVE THE FISH.
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