by Carlena Knight
Residents are reminded that it is illegal to harvest grouper, a popular fish that is consumed in Antigua and Barbuda, for which the closed season began at the start of the new year.
On Tuesday, Fisheries Officer in the Fisheries Division, Trevor Joseph gave more details on Observer AM, as he reminded fishermen and other residents that the closed season for three varieties of grouper will come to a close on March 31.
“The Nassau Grouper, the Red Hind and the Coney, those are the ones that are in closed season right now; those are the ones that are off limits to the market right now,” Joseph said.
This closed season means that these specific fish species should not be harvested or sold by any vendor to any person, hotel or business. Consumption of these species is also discouraged.
Joseph further emphasized the importance of adhering to this measure.
“It’s very, very simple answer — longevity. One of the things that you do in any market, especially when it is a living organism, you find the peak time when it is spawning and you seek to secure them at that time because at that time most, if not all of the species are in a spawning aggregate somewhere and they are releasing the eggs. So, the more that you can secure that timing, the more you have for the future,” Joseph said.
He further explained that based on data they would have collected since 2015, fishermen have reaped the benefits of having these closed seasons.
Joseph is cautioning persons to abide by these guidelines as there are fines to be faced if they do not comply.
“The penalties [vary] because you have fishers who go on people’s boats, boat owners, vendors that sell at the market and then supermarket vendors, but for boat owners, you will first get a warning because we prefer compliance over compensation, then, you will be fined $5,000. In the case there is a second offence you will be fined from $10,000 upwards and on the third offence, your vessel will lose its fisheries operation licence. I am not sure for how long that will be. You, as a fisher will lose your licence to fish and there will be monetary fines or jail time,” he explained.
Joseph did however mention that leniency could be given to those beachgoers who more or less were unaware of such a guideline, but for those who are aware and blatantly disregard these rules, they will be penalised.
Whereas tourists are concerned, Joseph said that measures are in place to ensure they, too, are aware of the various closed seasons.