ESR 7:195-204 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00187

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

Rachel T. Graham1,*, Kevin L. Rhodes2, Dan Castellanos3

1Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), PO Box 37, Punta Gorda, Belize
2The University of Guam, UOG Station, Mangilao 96923, Guam
3BlueBelize, 139 Front Street, Punta Gorda, Belize

ABSTRACT: 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. Specifically, a 90-fold difference in catch rates was observed between adults (n = 1425) and juveniles (n = 16). Of 209, 45 (21.5%) tagged individuals were recaptured during assessments, observed in marketed catch or reported, with 39.3% taken from the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Fishing mortality was estimated at 0.27, while the specific growth rate was 0.29% d–1. These results, together with documented loss of known spawning aggregations, suggest that goliath grouper in southern Belize are overfished. To allow population recovery, strict management and enforcement measures are required. Such a plan would have minimal impact on fishing communities, since no fishers are solely reliant on the species.


KEY WORDS: Goliath grouper fishery · Marine protected area · Tag-recapture


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Cite this article as: Graham RT, Rhodes KL, Castellanos D (2009) Characterization of the goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara fishery of southern Belize for conservation planning. Endang Species Res 7:195-204. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00187

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