Fish Spawning Aggregations of Mexico: Workshop a great first step to aggregation management
Very little is known of fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) in Mexico although there are a number of reports and anecdotal accounts. The Nassau grouper has evidently declined markedly at one site in the Mexican Caribbean, Mahahual. Numerous species of sharks, rays, groupers, snappers, jacks, wrasses, parrotfishes, and croakers are known to form spawning aggregations in the Gulf of California (such as leopard groupers Mycteroperca rosacea in the photos), and all or most of these are targeted by commercial, recreational, and artisanal fishers. Dramatic increases in fishing pressure in many areas of the Gulf have occurred over the past three decades resulting in marked declines in landings and catch-per-unit effort of many aggregating species.
Scientific information is needed on aggregating species in Mexico to evaluate the potential effectiveness and feasibility of different management options. These data will be critical for determining the size, locations, and timing of seasonal and area closures in the Gulf and other areas of Mexico and make meaningful recommendations to local and regional resource agencies and fisheries managers.
A workshop, held on October 28-30 2008 in La Paz, Mexico, brought together scientists, managers, fishers, conservation agencies, government agencies, and other stake-holders to: (1) review current issues related to the conservation and management of fish spawning aggregations in several regions of the world, (2) discuss the current status of FSAs and their fisheries in Mexico, and (3) develop a list of research and management priorities, based on experiences elsewhere, for Mexico. The workshop began with a full day research symposium that was the premier event for the Annual Meeting of Mexican Society of Ichthyologists.
The workshop helped to consolidate a network of interested and relevant agencies and individuals from all sectors (academic, government, NGOs, etc) dedicated to improving the science, fisheries management and conservation of FSAs in Mexico. Combined efforts can help to increase awareness and understanding of aggregations and advocate for effective policies and programmes. Outputs from the workshop will form the strategic direction for managing and researching FSAs in Mexico in the near future.
Proceedings of the workshop were covered in several newspaper, magazine, and internet articles in Mexico and were therefore successful in communicating the relevance and importance of to the general public. The immediate success of the workshop was reflected in a follow-up meeting with the National Fisheries Commissioner Ramon Corral of CONAPESCA (Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca), which resulted in a partnership between our group, CONAPESCA and NOS (Noroeste Sustentable) on one of the most important aggregation fisheries in the region, the Gulf Corvina (Cynoscion othonopterus).