The Department of Environment (DoE) is working with Marine Conservation International (MCI) to track marine predators that have been tagged as part of an ongoing local research project.
The aim of the project is to inform local management efforts for threatened species, particularly sharks, snappers and groupers. DoE Senior Research Officer John Bothwell also noted the project hopes to address sustainable fishing practices in the Cayman Islands.
'While sharks are now completely protected in all Cayman waters, we still fish for, and want to be able to keep fishing sustainably for, snappers and groupers. To do this, we need to work with the public to help us manage these species', he said.
The DoE states as Cayman's human population continues to increase, the number of people trying to catch fish also is on the rise. According to the DoE, more research is needed to make sure that snappers and groupers are not overfished.
Part of the project entails researchers catching fish and inserting an acoustic tag, in order to track movements through a series of research hydrophones, located around all three islands.
Fish are also tagged with small white beads and the DoE is asking for public feedback if the tagged fish are caught or photographed. There is also a reward for the return of the acoustic tags, located in the belly of the fish.
The DoE encourages persons photographing marine predators to post the image on social media with the hashtag #SpotThatCayFish. Additional information should be provided, namely the submitter's name, date, time of day and the name/location of the dive or snorkel site. From there, MCI officials will identify the fish and study its migration patterns.
'While all species on the reef are important, these top marine predators influence the population structures of other reef organisms', said MCI researcher Pete Davies. 'They play an important role in affecting the behaviour of other species. Big snappers, groupers and sharks are a crucial part of a complex system. There is a lot we can learn about these fish from the tags and the photos.
'I'm talking to as many fishers as possible about their experiences with these species, to get a better idea of their distribution, especially lagoon and mutton snappers, and tiger groupers. This information from the fishers and divers will help us better understand the fish', he said.
For updates on the social media campaign, like the Facebook page 'Shark & Cetaceans: The Cayman Islands' or follow @MCI_Cayman on Twitter.
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