The Belize National Spawning Aggregation Working Group was established in July 2001 in response to a nation-wide survey of spawning aggregations of the Nassau grouper in early 2001 that revealed very low numbers of spawning fish. During 2002 a coalition of seven NGOs worked successfully to protect 11 of the Nassau grouper spawning sites, and to introduce a four-month closed season. Since early 2003, the Working Group was revitalized and has been meeting regularly on a quarterly basis to share data and develop management strategies.
Goal and Objectives
The Spawning Aggregation Working Group’s goal is “To determine the success of management measures in enhancing Nassau grouper spawning aggregations.” In an effort to attain this goal the Group’s objectives are:
- To manage, monitor and patrol spawning aggregation sites for the next five years, including monitoring the impact of use on the sites
- To involve the stakeholders in monitoring, research, and patrolling of spawning aggregation sites
- To create, house, and maintain a spawning aggregation database
- To analyse the data and provide recommendations for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of the sites
- To disseminate information for the education of all stakeholders
- To utilize the information to advocate for and build support for the management, conservation, protection and sustainable use of the spawning aggregation sites
- To support other initiatives that contribute to this general goal
- To promote alternatives for the traditional users of spawning aggregation sites.
- Monitoring: Seven sites are monitored as regularly as possible and include: Rocky Pt. (Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve), Dogflea Caye (Turneffe Islands), Sandbore (Lighthouse Reef), Emily/Caye Glory, Gladden Spit (Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve), Northeast Point (Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve) and Nicholas Caye (Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve). The monitoring teams are guided by the Reef Fish Spawning Aggregation Monitoring Protocol for the Mesoamerican Reef and Wider Caribbean.
- Data Storage and Analysis: The Working Group manages a database in which all monitoring data are stored. Recently the Group developed a web-based database to make data entry and retrieval more efficient. Efforts are underway to re-enter all data in this new online database. Once this process is completed, the Group will then be able to generate reports that will be useful for management purposes. Use of the database is governed by a data sharing agreement, which has been signed by participating members. Dive safety is a prime concern of the Working Group, which has developed emergency procedure guidelines and keeps and up-to-date record of dive team members.
- Public Awareness: The Group has published a series of newsletters, two posters, and TV spots. The main aim of this program is to keep stakeholders, particularly fishermen, informed of management progress and the results of the monitoring, to publicize the vulnerability of fish spawning aggregations and the conservation measures taken in Belize to preserve them through full protection of the sites and a closed season for the Nassau grouper.
- Training: Dive team members receive regular refresher courses in the monitoring protocol and other procedures. For example, many members recently participated in a DAN oxygen provider course.
Links to SPAGs database: http://www.uberibz.org/#!spags-database/cer9