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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


The University of the Virgin Islands Eastern Caribbean Center has received a $141,423 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's Marine Fisheries Initiative to conduct conservation research in an area south of St. Thomas called the red hind bank, where red hind grouper go to spawn.
The grant will enable biologists to evaluate what impact conservation efforts in this area have had on commercial fishing of the red hind grouper population. Dr. Richard Nemeth is principal investigator of the MARFIN grant.
"Fishermen are spending more time and using more gear to catch less fish," Nemeth said. "What we don't want to happen is what happened with the cod fishing industry in New England. Nobody ever made the hard decisions and what happened is the whole fishery collapsed. One day all the fishermen were out of work."
Nemeth will head a team of biologists that will tag red hind grouper at their spawning site, 12 kilometers south of St. Thomas, and follow their dispersal. Fishermen who catch the tagged grouper will be offered monetary rewards for each tag they return.
"The idea is not only to protect but to try to understand where most of those fish come from," Nemeth said.
Since 1990, red hind grouper have been getting smaller and less abundant, despite the efforts of biologists to seasonally close the red hind bank to fishermen.
While a study in 1997 found that the red hind grouper population was recovering, the pace has been slow. In 1998, the red hind bank was designated by the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council as the first marine fisheries reserve in the Virgin Islands. Nemeth said the MARFIN grant will evaluate the usefulness of the red hind bank as a fisheries management tool.
For further information about the MARFIN grant and the red hind grouper project, contact Dr. Richard Nemeth at 693-1389.

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