REEF scientists and volunteers are gearing up another season of the Grouper Moon Project, a collaborative research effort with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE). This important project focuses on one of the largest (and one of just a few) known spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean. Over 6,000 grouper amass in one location for 7-10 days following winter full moons. We are staging field teams to Little Cayman around full moons in both January and February this year - while we typically focus on just one month, 2019 is considered a “split year”, meaning the full moon dates are right on the line of predicting which month will be the strong spawning month.
Since 2002, our group has conducted groundbreaking research to study the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations to help ensure recovery of the populations of this iconic species. This project is widely regarded as one of the ocean conservation success stories, due in large part to science-based, proactive legislation passed by the Cayman Islands government. The project's findings are more important than ever in light of the recent declaration by the IUCN that Nassau Grouper are now considered Critically Endangered (up from just Endangered).
In addition to continuing annual monitoring research, we will be hosting several live-feed videos through Google Hangouts as part of REEF’s Grouper Education Program. In 2011, with funding from Disney Conservation Fund, REEF launched the education program to engage Caymanian students (and a worldwide audience) in the project. This exciting initiative brings the Nassau Grouper into elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and the Hangouts that connect classrooms with scientists in the field. We will post Hangout details on our Facebook page and website in a few weeks.
To find out more about the project, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject. You can also check out this great story featured in Alert Diver magazine a few months ago, "How to Save a Fish", written by REEF Board of Trustee members, Ned and Anna DeLoach - http://www.alertdiver.com/Nassau_grouper.