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Grouper population is in clear decline

A grouper and a scuba diver (Photograph supplied)

Dear Sir,

I read with great interest your front-page coverage today of threatened legal action by the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda against the Government, demanding a halt to plans to set up Marine Protection Areas around Bermuda.

One fisherman asked: “How can we overfish this island with hand lines and a rod and reel?”

Another said that rockfish, popular for eating, were not being depleted: “That area is still as strong as it was [many years ago].”

I beg to differ. I am a recreational scuba diver and have dived Bermuda’s reefs since 1987. In my log books from my first years of diving, the sighting of a grouper would be noted with many exclamation marks — it was not a frequent occurrence. But from the introduction of the pot-fishing ban in 1988, grouper numbers on the inshore reefs began a remarkable recovery, so that by the early 2000s, my dive buddy and I would routinely see 20-25 groupers at The Arch off Elbow Beach, one of our favourite locations (and obviously theirs too).

I’m not sure if the opening-up of accurate GPS by the US Government in 2000 had anything to do with it, but in the past 15 years or so grouper numbers have again precipitously declined so that it has been years since I have seen even two groupers together anywhere, and it has been two years since I have seen any groupers at all at The Arch.

Maybe fishermen have nothing to do with that decline, but I and many of my friends and acquaintances — including some fishermen — think they do. The creation of effective fully protected MPAs, hopefully in agreement with and supported by the FAB, is vital to the future of Bermuda’s fisheries.


Hamilton Parish

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Published November 29, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated November 29, 2022 at 7:56 am)

Grouper population is in clear decline

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