Blue-striped grunt fishing ban at East End
A two-month fishing ban is today to be enforced over an area of water off St George's to protect a breeding ground for blue-striped grunts.
A notice in the Official Gazette said that the minister responsible for the environment was satisfied that there was an “immediate need for the prohibition of fishing” in the spot off the North Shore “for the conservation and protection of the blue-striped grunt”, or Haemulon sciurus.
Environmental matters are in the portfolio of Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and home affairs minister.
A ministry spokeswoman explained: “Since 2007, an area off Fort St Catherine has been closed to fishing during the months of May and June to protect a spawning aggregation of blue-striped grunt, Haemulon sciurus.
“Blue-striped grunts are an important prey species for larger predators, therefore, the closure of this site was deemed a necessary step in preventing the overfishing of this species.
“Significant issues arose in 2001 when it was reported that large quantities of grunt fillets were entering the local market.
“Investigations by fisheries officers revealed that there could be as many as 50 vessels fishing on the aggregation during peak fishing times.”
The “fish aggregation area” is closed every year during May and June under the Fisheries Act 1972.
The spokeswoman said: “Research was conducted on the site by the marine resources section for many years after the issues arose and results suggested that the aggregation formed primarily during the new moon in May.
“However, this time period was variable and fish were also taken at the site in June.
“As a precautionary approach to the management of this important species, it was recommended that no fishing be allowed at the site during May or June.”
The Official Gazette notice explained that the affected area is a rough rectangle with a north-east border from St Catherine's Point to southern channel marker number 12.
The prohibited area runs along the southern boundary of the southern channel to marker number 16, then southwest to a point 32 degrees 23.4 minutes north, 64 degrees 41.4 minutes west, and is completed by a line running south-east to Fort George.
Studies by a team from the marine resources division found samples of blue-striped grunts, which are also known as bull grunts, collected from Bermuda between 2001 and 2008 ranged in age from two to 23 years and their sizes varied from about 18cm to 35cm in length.
Researchers Joanna Pitt, Tammy Trott and Brian Luckhurst explained in a paper for the 62nd Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute conference in 2009 that the species was “presumed to be relatively important in the local recreational and subsistence fishery”.