Groupers stacked up in a Pohnpei market for domestic sale. Credit: Rachel Graham

Pohnpei State is one of four states comprising the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The main island (Pohnpei) and eight atolls make up the state to provide abundant habitat for reef fisheries and for fish spawning aggregations. Though numerous spawning aggregations have been reported anecdotally by fishers, only two multi-species grouper aggregations of brown-marbled grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus), camouflage grouper (Epinephelus polyphekadion) and squaretail coralgrouper (Plectropomus areolatus) have been studied in any detail (Rhodes et al., 2014).

Squaretailed coral grouper for sale in Pohnpei market. Credit: Rachel Graham

To protect these aggregations, Pohnpei State has instituted a national law prohibiting the sale, catch and possession of all groupers between 1 January and 31 May and has protected spawning sites through marine protected areas. Though declines in the past have been documented, recent monitoring and improved law enforcement have resulted in modest increases in fish density in the last few years at these sites (Kevin Rhodes, unpublished). While these improvements highlight the importance of enforcement and monitoring, fish market assessments have recorded the loss of some grouper species from the fishery and reductions in mean fish size (Rhodes et al. 2018). There is ongoing interest to conserve reef fish fisheries of Pohnpei: Conserving Coastal Fisheries in Pohnpei:

Rhodes KL, Nemeth RS, Kadison E, Joseph E. 2014. Spatial, temporal, and environmental dynamics of a multi-species epinephelid spawning aggregation in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Coral Reefs 33: 765-775.

Rhodes KL, Hernandez-Ortiz DX, Cuetos-Bueno J, Ioanis M, Washington W, Ladore R. 2018. A 10-year comparison of the Pohnpei, Micronesia, commercial inshore fishery reveals an increasingly unsustainable fishery. Fisheries Research 204: 156-164.