black sea bass
Black Seabass Photo credit: Octavio Aburto

Reef Fish Conservation in Eastern Pacific

Groupers and Snappers Research Group (GSRG)

Brad Erisman and Octavio Aburto

GSRG is a collaborative effort between scientists, government agencies and the public to achieve conservation objectives for reef fishes in Southern and Baja California.  GSRG seeks funding for the following four projects. 

Project 1--- Tracking Giants: A Community and Web-based Approach to Understanding the Behavior and Movement of Giant Sea Bass
The goal of this project is to work with the local diving community to understand the movement patterns, behavior, and habitat use of giant sea bass in and around the San Diego La Jolla Ecological Reserve (SDLJER). Adult giant sea bass will be tagged, photographed, measured, given names, and posted on an interactive website.  We will invite the local diving community to participate in monitoring the movements of behaviors of  Charlie and other tagged fish by re-sighting their tags during routine recreational dives in and around the SDLJER.  Re-sightings of tagged fish will be plotted on a GIS map of the reserve, and in that way, the movement patterns of each fish can be monitored. We believe that through collaborative efforts between local divers and SIO researchers, as well as through the development of the website and several educational programs at the Birch Aquarium, we can improve public awareness and support for the conservation of this magnificent species.

Jeff Graham and Philip Hastings will serve as co-principal investigators for this project, and John Moore of Dive Bums San Diego has already agreed to participate. 

The Link Family foundation has provided $19,000 of initial funding for this project.

Project 2 --- Using Marine Protected Areas to Conserve and Manage Reef Fish Spawning Aggregations in the Gulf of California
fish aggregations We are organizing a large-scale, collaborative effort to document sites and study fishes that form spawning aggregations in the Gulf of California, in collaboration with authorities and researchers from the Mexican Institute of Fisheries (INP). This information will be presented to local communities as well as state and federal agencies to help develop sound conservation and fisheries management policies in the region. Using the previous work groups established by several NGOs (e.g. TNC, WWF, NOS, COBI, PANGAS, PRONATURA) we will consolidate a network of researchers, authorities and fishermen, in order to accomplish these goals. 

Two foundations are reviewing proposals for financial support for this project.  

Project 3 --- Commercially Important Serranid Fishes from the Gulf of California: Ecology, Fisheries and Conservation
We are nearing completion on a booklet that summarizes the available biological, fisheries, and conservation information for serranid fishes in the Gulf of California. These fishes are among the most economically important group of fishes in the Gulf of California, and their populations have suffered drastic declines due to overfishing, coastal development, and other human-related impacts. There is an urgent and immediate need for increased efforts by scientists, conservation groups, local stakeholders, and government agencies in Mexico to conserve their stocks and create more sustainable fisheries. We believe this booklet, which is bi-lingual and written in a non-scientific manner, will be an incredibly useful tool that will help reach these goals. It is a comprehensive summary of available information on the biology and fisheries of economically important serranid species in the Gulf. The booklet also discusses areas in need of scientific research and provides recommendations to improve fisheries regulations for threatened species.

This project is currently funded by PRONATURA, an international conservation organization based in Mexico. Upon completion, the booklet will be disseminated to the Mexican Fisheries Commission (CONAPESCA), the ministry of tourism and development (FONATUR), the National Park Service (CONANP), and several conservation agencies.

Project 4 --- A Large Marine predator Photo Identification Program for Cabo Pulmo National Park
cabo pulmo We are working on a photo identification study of Gulf grouper in order to establish the first individualized grouper database for the National Marine Park in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico. We hope to establish an identity link between the local community and the natural resources inside the marine park in order to create incentives for local stakeholders to preserve large predators. This ID database, comparable to marine mammals photo-databases, will help monitor grouper movements inside the park and evaluate the health of the largest fish predator population in the MPA. We want to: 1) Encourage the local community to evaluate and enforce actions by involving local people in the monitoring of reef species; 2) Involve tourists in local natural resource protection by inviting them to survey grouper movements; 3) Establish awareness and education programs of overexploited marine large predators; and 4) Create a web page about marine wildlife surveys using the data obtained by the locals and tourist divers.


Pronatura Noroeste A.C. is proud to present
Volume 2008, number one of Ciencia y Conservación. (pdf - Spanish)
Volume 2008, number of Ciencia y Conservación (pdf - English).

Ciencia y Conservación  is a scientific-technical publication aimed at the spread of useful information for the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico, particularly in the northwest region of the country. 

This forty-four page volume, includes a description of the ecological importance and fisheries of one of the most consipicuous groups of fish in the Gulf of California is presented: the Serranids.  These species (sea basses and groupers) make up a significant volume of artisanal catch in the region to the benefit of thousands of fishermen and localities along the Baja California Sur, Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit coasts.

The revision and analysis presented in this work provide a series of useful recommendations for the individualized management of Serranid fisheries that enriches the information available to the administration of Mexican fishery resources.  Conservation recommendations put forth by the authors are supported by renowned scientists Yvonne J. Sadovy and Matthew T. Craig , who represent the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations (SCRFA), and by the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) and the Nearshore Marine Fish Research Program (NMFRP).

Related Research

Metapopulation model for yellow snapper, Lutjanus argentiventris, and its implications for fisheries and conservation in the Gulf of California

Using Reproductive Parameters to Manage Grouper Fisheries in the Gulf of California