Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation on Little Cayman in 2020. Photo (c) Grouper Moon Project, by Tiago Peixoto
Last month we successfully conducted our 19th year of the Grouper Moon Project. Around the winter full moons each year, our field team joins forces in the Cayman Islands to study one of the last remaining, and largest currently known, spawning aggregations of the endangered Nassau Grouper. Since 2001, REEF and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment have collaborated on this project. Along with our academic colleagues from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Oregon State University, the Grouper Moon Project includes research, monitoring, and outreach efforts aimed at understanding and protecting this iconic species.
The 2020 Grouper Moon Project took place from February 5-19. During the two weeks, our team conducted annual monitoring to estimate the number and sizes of grouper attending the aggregations on both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, documenting spawning behavior in Nassau Grouper as well as other species that use the site for spawning, and researching fertilization and survival rates of eggs and larvae. We also piloted a new study to document the presence of fish DNA in water samples as a potential new means to monitor aggregation sites.