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Grouper Moon brightens up Little Cayman

Local News 19 Jan, 2022 Follow News

Grouper Moon is a spectacular sight

Grouper Moon is a spectacular sight

Grouper Moon is a spectacular sight

Conservationists are gathered in Little Cayman to monitor the annual Grouper Moon, when thousands of Nassau groupers congregate to spawn. It has fascinated scientists and oceanographers for decades.

Researchers are surveying the spawning at the aggregate sites where the ritual always starts around this time of year for up to ten days. They are filming and researching from Tuesday until Thursday or Friday this week.

The Grouper Moon Project is a collaboration between the DoE, Reef Environment Education Foundation (REEF) and other members of the Caribbean marine scientific community. Todd Bohannon is an educational volunteer with REEF. He said: “This is my tenth year of coming and probably the highlight of my year. I missed coming last year because of Covid and I’m super-excited to be back.” One of the scientists observing is marine biologist Brice Semmens, a professor at the Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. He said: “I’ve been part of this project for almost 20 years and almost every year we get to come down and help the Cayman Islands Government carry out the science they do to understand and monitor the population of Nassau Grouper. It’s a real privilege and honour to be part of that group for that length of time.”

The project is so popular with the visiting scientists that Bohannon revealed many researchers bring their offspring to help out with research, equipment and data analysis. In fact, Semmens has brought his 13-year-old son this time.

Despite his expert knowledge on the topic, Semmens admits that they still don’t fully know why the groupers start spawning exactly when they do, although a full moon is the main reason. Semmens said: “That’s totally true but in a year like this year when there is what we call a ‘split moon’, the challenge is when a full moon happens in the middle of January and a full moon in the middle of February, that’s when we have a really hard time to predict when the fish will be spawning.” He added that it happens around this time of year because it’s when the ocean is at its coldest.

The actual spawning process is spectacular with hundreds of male groupers pursuing the lone female who releases her eggs.

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