Each winter since 2002, REEF has sent a team of researchers and volunteers to Little Cayman for the Grouper Moon Project. This collaborative research effort between REEF and the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE) conducts groundbreaking research to study the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations, to help ensure recovery of the populations of this iconic and Critically Endangered species.

While the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent our US-based team from traveling to the Cayman Islands this year, Grouper Moon will continue. REEF scientists are working with our collaborators at CIDOE to develop a field plan and provide the training and equipment needed to field a team to conduct the usual monitoring activities Researchers will document the number of fish visiting the aggregation, as well as fish lengths. These data will help us better understand the dynamics and status of the Nassau Grouper population in the Cayman Islands. The team will also record spawning behavior and take photos that will be used to identify individual Nassau Grouper using facial recognition. In addition, they will maintain the autonomous monitoring equipment that is currently deployed at aggregation locations, including acoustic receivers and hydrographic instruments, which are used to document conditions at the sites year-round. Given the conservation impact of this long-term project, we are grateful that the work will continue. We look forward to returning to the Cayman Islands in 2022, to celebrate the Grouper Moon Project's 20th year!

The Grouper Moon Project is widely regarded as one of the best ocean conservation success stories, due in large part to science-based, proactive legislation passed by the Cayman Islands government. To find out more, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject and view this documentary recently produced by Guy Harvey Expeditions. You can also check out this Alert Diver article written by REEF Board of Trustee members, Ned and Anna DeLoach.