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2014 | 44 | 2 |
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Fishery exploitation and stock assessment of the endangered Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Serranidae), in the Turks and Caicos Islands

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Background. The Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus (Bloch, 1792), is an endangered species that has been historically overexploited in numerous fisheries throughout its range in the Caribbean and tropical West Atlantic. Data relating fishery exploitation levels to stock abundance of the species are deficient, and protective regulations for the Nassau grouper are yet to be implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The goal of this study was to conduct a stock assessment and evaluate the exploitation status of the Nassau grouper in the TCI. Materials and Methods. Calibrated length cohort analysis was applied to published fisheries data on Nassau grouper landings in the TCI. The total lengths of Nassau groupers among the catches of spearfishers, lobster trappers, and deep sea fishers on the island of South Caicos during 2006 and 2008 were used with estimates of growth, natural mortality, and total annual landings to derive exploitation benchmarks. Results. The TCI stock experienced low to moderate fishing mortality (0.28, 0.18) and exploitation rates (0.49, 0.38) during the period of the study (2006, 2008). However, 21.2%–64.4% of all landings were reproductively immature. Spearfishing appeared to contribute most to fishing mortality relative to the use of lobster traps or hydraulic reels along bank drop-offs. Conclusion. In comparison with available fisheries data for the wider Caribbean, the results reveal the TCI as one of the remaining sites, in addition to the Bahamas, with a substantial Nassau grouper stock. In light of increasing development and tourism in the TCI, continued monitoring is essential to maintain sustainable harvesting practices.
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