Increasing protection: fish breeding grounds
Examples of WWF's work to protect fish nursery and breeding grounds include:
- protection of the Nassau grouper and its spawning sites in Belize
- creation of a no-take zone adjacent to Bunaken National Park, Indonesia, to protect a grouper spawning site
- creation of the Tortugas Marine Reserve in the Florida Keys, US, which protects the Key’s most prolific spawning grounds
- a ban on bottom trawling in the Mediterranean Sea at depths below 1,000m, which protects the nurseries for an important deep-sea shrimp fishery
- the use of a 3D modeling system for Nui Chua National Park, Vietnam, to engage with local fishermen to identify aggregation and spawning grounds for various species including cuttlefish, mackerel, scorpion fish, and some herbivorous reef fish
Why protect spawning sites?
Back from the brink
Adult groupers gather in large numbers at specific sites to spawn. This allows fishers to catch large numbers of them with relatively little effort. However, this also makes the Nassau grouper very vulnerable to overfishing.
Both fishers and researchers agree that there have been dramatic declines in grouper numbers over the past few decades. At Caye Glory, for example, fishermen caught thousands of groupers in the 1960s - but only 21 were seen during the 2000/2001 spawning season!
WWF joined forces with the fishing community, researchers, and a coalition of seven NGOs to persuade the Belize government to protect the Nassau grouper’s spawning sites.
As a result, the government enacted legislation to ban fishing for Nassau grouper during its spawning period and to fully protect 11 spawning sites. These closed areas are also protecting at least 20 other species of reef fish that spawn on these banks.
The protection of these fish spawning sites is a critical step towards sustainable coral reef fisheries in Belize, as well as work to create an MPA network in the Mesoamerican Reef, one of WWF's priority places.