Characterization of the goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara fishery of southern Belize for conservation planning

The goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822) is an integral part of traditional coastal fisheries in Belize; however, recent anecdotal reports suggest declining catches, mean size and abundance, particularly of large adults. Quantifying goliath grouper abundance in the waters of Belize is an important first step in developing management plans that can protect stocks of the species as well as local fishing communities. To characterize the status of the goliath grouper in southern Belize, we used a 2 yr market survey, fishery-dependent collections and passive tagging. Market surveys revealed that the vast majority (98% or 1412) of 1441 goliath groupers examined at a fish market comprised juveniles. Eight of the 64 interviewed fishers were responsible for most of the catches (67.2%). Size distributions of goliath grouper collected from coastal to outer reef areas using setlines, longlines and drumlines confirmed the overall paucity of adults in local populations.

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