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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01135

Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara oral history, use, and conservation status in the Mexican Caribbean and Campeche Bank

Arturo Bravo-Calderon, Andrea Saenz-Arroyo*, Stuart Fulton Alejandro Espinoza-Tenorio, Eloy Sosa-Cordero

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Atlantic goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara is highly vulnerable to overfishing, yet little is known of its population status in Campeche Bank and the Mexican Caribbean. By reviewing landings records, historical literature, and the local ecological knowledge (LEK) of fishers, we document historical practices, uses, and changes in the abundance and distribution of the goliath grouper in these regions. In both the Mexican Caribbean and Campeche Bank, goliath grouper populations were notably impacted by commercial fishing activities in the 1970s and 1980s. The catches during this period could only be sustained for a few years, after which the fishery collapsed. Our results from Campeche Bank in the southern Gulf of Mexico indicate that populations persist in an area currently occupied by oil platforms. In the Mexican Caribbean, the extirpation of the goliath grouper may be close at hand, with local exceptions like that of Chetumal Bay. The results of our study indicate that the local goliath grouper populations are in critical danger of extinction, which must be taken into account during the next IUCN Red List regional assessment. In addition, the goliath grouper should be included in the Mexican list for endangered species (NOM-059-SEMARNAT).