Global Protection: Few (1-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: Many current fishery regulations are in effect, particularly in U.S. territorial waters; however, there are few, if any, spawning aggregations protected in the tropical western Atlantic (Sadovy 1990, in press). The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council administers commercial and recreational fisheries in U.S. territorial waters of the Atlantic. Harvest ban in federal waters has been in effect since 1991; federal commercial regulations prohibit the possession or harvest of Nassau grouper in or from the Economic Exclusive Zone. Minimum size of 13 inches fork length was instituted in Florida waters before 1970 (Huntsman et al. 1990). Minimum size of 18 inches was established in Florida waters in 1985, then increased to 20 inches before the harvest moratorium. Protected from spearfishing in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, Florida, since 1960 and 1975, respectively (Sluka and Sullivan 1998). Harvest is prohibited in Florida state waters: 3 miles off the Atlantic coast, 9 miles off the Gulf coast. Protected from all forms of fishing in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, central Bahamas, since 1986; more abundant in shallow-water reef habitats than in similar environments of the Florida Keys (Sluka et al. 1994), and significantly greater density, size, biomass, and reproductive output occur there than in adjacent fished areas (Sluka et al. 1996b, 1997). The use of speargun to fish spawning aggregations in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is prohibited; gill nets are the only fishing method permitted over non-aggregating areas (Aguilar-Perera and Aguilar-Davila 1996). Only handlining by residents is permitted at Cayman Islands aggregation sites (Sadovy, in press). Minimum size regulations are in effect in federal waters off Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the Bahamas and Bermuda. Spawning aggregations are protected in the Cayman Islands (Sadovy 1990). Being considered for protected species status in Bermuda.
Needs: Occurrences should be protected to ensure long-term survival. Stocks should be managed to maintain adequate reproductive (spawning) stock biomass to sustain recruitment. Serious consideration should be given to the protection of spawning aggregations, at a minimum by prohibiting spear guns and fish traps, and permitting only low levels of, if any, exploitation. The introduction of no-fishing zones in critical areas also needs to be considered as a management option to address the problem of overfishing (Sadovy, in press).