This project is designed to explore the habitat preference of the juvenile stages of the threatened Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). As juveniles, many grouper species like the Nassau grouper take advantage of the ample protection offered by the three-dimensional structure of mangrove roots as well as the coral crevices and caves that are scattered among seagrass beds. Those seagrass beds also provide an abundant food source for these juvenile fish that are eating mostly crustaceans like shrimp and crabs before they transition to eating larger fish.
Even though Nassau grouper are protected by local and federal laws, and possessing the fish is prohibited all year, it is also important to consider their associated habitat when discussing conservation actions. The habitats occupied by juveniles and adults can be protected in order to encompass the entire life history of the Nassau grouper. So, their habitat - referred to as Essential Fish Habitat - can be protected from destructive practices like coastal development or harmful fishing practices. In theory, this should protect the Nassau grouper from the time it is born to the time it dies from natural causes. In the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ, beyond 9 Nm from the coast in Puerto Rico and beyond 3 Nm in the USVI and Florida), the Nassau grouper is protected from any take, capture or possession. If you accidentally catch a Nassau grouper, you must take all necessary measures to release it in the habitat it was found, unharmed and alive. We encourage you to report any such interaction to accumulate information on every observation and help researchers document the species recovery.
Infographic by the Perry Institute for Marine Science. Used with permission.
This project - and every effort to conserve what remains of our Nassau grouper populations - can continue to be successful with your help! Let us know if you see a Nassau grouper.
The success of this project is strongly correlated with the working relationships established with our collaborating fishers. Thanks to their support and valuable insight, this project has already been successful at locating and tagging some juvenile Nassau grouper. Please note, a special permit and authorization is required to handle Nassau grouper. This project is authorized under a Puerto Rico DRNA Research Permit.
Compliance with state and federal fishing regulations is a great place to start. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both Nassau (Critically Endangered) and Goliath (Vulnerable) grouper as their populations are decreasing worldwide. The US added the Nassau grouper to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) List in 2016 as Threatened. In US jurisdictional waters the Nassau grouper and the Goliath grouper are protected, their possession and landing are prohibited year-round by fully compatible local and federal fisheries regulations. Click the link below to view the fishing regulations for both Puerto Rico’s local waters and surrounding federal waters. We thank you for being a responsible fisher!