Ms. Jennifer Justiniano
Ramey Aguadilla, Puerto Rico | February 26, 2019
The Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is a large marine fish mainly distributed in coral and rocky reef habitats of the greater Caribbean. The health of these coral reefs is dependent on a balance between corals, algae, herbivores, carnivores and detritivores. As a higher-level predator, Nassau groupers help control the population of other reef organisms helping to maintain this ecological balance. However, heavy fishing pressure has caused severe declines in most countries where this species was previously naturally abundant. Nassau groupers are especially susceptible to rapid population declines due to fishing during the seasonal spawning aggregations that the species forms at the same sites each year. Recently they have been listed as Critically Endangered, since more than 30 of the known 50 aggregations across its range have disappeared and the size of most aggregations have been reduced by 90% or more (Sadovy, Y., Aguilar-Perera, A. & Sosa-Cordero, E. 2018).
Conservación ConCiencia, a registered (US and Puerto Rico) non-profit organization dedicated to environmental research and conservation, has provided commercial dive fishers in several locations across Puerto Rico, underwater action cameras to use during their daily fishing activities. Through this collaboration several species of interest have been documented by fishers during their filming and the project has evolved into specifically documenting sittings of Nassau grouper. To date over 60 videos of individual Nassau groupers, taken in 2018 and 2019, are available for review and analysis.
HS AVID students at Ramey Unit School, will collaborate with Conservación ConCiencia in this important research project. Our students will be responsible for analyzing the videos taken by fishermen to identify and quantify Nassau Grouper individuals. These analyses will lead to better documenting the presence and distributions of this species and evaluate the remaining grouper stocks in Puerto Rico. HS AVID students will work hand to hand with Mr. R. Espinoza, Conservación ConCiencia director, to properly identify the presence of this critically endangered species, aid its survival, and help justify and validate future research that will guarantee the species preservation.