The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today praised the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for adopting a proposal yesterday to help ensure the survival of the gag grouper, one of Florida's most economically important fish species.
Studies conducted by scientists over the last decade indicate that the gag grouper population is declining, and the proportion of male gag has dropped dramatically. Working with fisherman, environmentalists and government fishery managers, the Gulf Council approved the creation of "no fishing" areas off the West Coast of Florida on Thursday.
"The imperiled status of gag has been well established by scientists," said EDF fisheries biologist Pam Baker. "The decline of the gag, including the male, and the serious signs of inbreeding, are all the result of excessive fishing of the species. A closed fishing area offers the best potential to protect the gag and help foster its recovery."
The Gulf Council is responsible for managing fisheries in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The gag grouper reserve, the first of its kind in the Gulf of Mexico, will close two sites, each slightly larger than 100 square nautical miles, to all fishing, year-round. Scientists will conduct field studies over the next several years to evaluate the effectiveness of the closed fishing areas.