Fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) are used by many species to breed or reproduce, and this strategy is typical of commercially and ecologically important fishes like groupers and snappers. During November 11-13th 2019, the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) conducted its first training workshop under the Fisheries Research & Conservation Program. The FSA stakeholder training workshop was designed to help build national capacity to support research and monitoring of aggregating species within The Bahamas using standardized survey protocols.
Led by PIMS scientists Dr. Krista Sherman (Senior Scientist) and Dr. Craig Dahlgren (Executive Director), the workshop provided an overview of FSAs and their importance, a summary of in-country Nassau grouper and FSA research and explained how this information can be applied to assist with conservation and sustainable resource management.
Twelve individuals completed the 3-day training workshop, which included both interactive classroom and field-based activities. Classroom presentations and training activities covered fish identification (including spawning colour phases), size estimation, abundance estimates, spawning behavior, FSA survey techniques, fish sampling and processing, data management, and field safety. Participants were also given the opportunity to dissect different snapper species following a demonstration and review of fish anatomy.
Field training consisted of fish identification, size estimation practice and assessments, and underwater visual surveys.
For some participants, this was their first experience with this type of information and fieldwork. “I loved the practical applications and the dives. I thought it was super helpful to go into the field and practice surveys” commented one of the participants. Another person said, “Efficient use of time and great exposure/introduction for novice participants”.
Dr. Sherman stated, “Monitoring the status of FSAs is critical to assess the health of fish populations and to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies. This is especially important for critically endangered species like Nassau grouper and it’s good to have a team of trained people to assist with FSA research moving forward”. In fact, these newly trained stakeholders will be participating in Nassau grouper research this spawning season.
The FSA training workshop was graciously hosted by Dolphin Cay, Atlantis. Funding for the workshop and creation of the associated training materials was provided by the Moore Bahamas Foundation, Dolphin Encounters Project Beach, Disney Conservation Fund and the Perry Institute for Marine Science. Thanks to Nathan Jones and the staff of Blue Adventures for logistical support during training dives and to all attendees for their participation.
For more information about FSA and Nassau grouper research under the FRCP visit our website and follow PIMS on Facebook and Instagram at @perryinstituteformarinescience and via @nassaugrouper242 for updates.