Great News! Yesterday, Elvin James, Minister of the Environment and Sport, announced the designation of a temporary No Fishing Area north of Fort St. Catherine for the 2nd year in a row. This protected area was created in order to protect a Blue-Striped Grunt spawning aggregation (SPAG) that has been heavily fished during previous years.
Blue-striped grunts play an important role in our marine environment, as they are predators of small crustaceans and other invertebrates. Grunts often spend the day in schools on coral reefs, and then go out to neighbouring sandy areas and seagrass beds to feed at night. Studies have shown that when the grunts return to their reef home in the day time they bring important nutrients back with them that aid in coral growth. In doing so grunts act as a means for nutrients to move between the two habitats and thus act to enhance the ecological resilence of coral reef ecosystems overall.
Fishing a spawning aggregation is the very definition of an unsustainable practice. Killing fish just before they reproduce prevents the production of new fish to replace the adults. Most countries now ban fishing at known spawning aggregations. Historically in Bermuda overfishing of Nassau Grouper at spawning aggregations resulted in the ecological extinction of the fish in Bermuda (reference), which might be why fishermen would even want to catch grunts these days.
Hopefully by protecting the spawning aggregation of the grunts, these fish will survive on our reefs for years to come.