Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation
Research letters
The end of the line? Rapid depletion of a large-sized grouper through spearfishing in a subtropical marginal reef
Vinicius J. Giglioa,b,, , Mariana G. Benderc, Cleverson Zapelinid, Carlos E.L. Ferreirab
a Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
b Reef System Ecology and Conservation Lab, Departamento de Biologia Marinha, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, RJ, Brazil
c Departamento de Ecologia e Evolução, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
d Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Conservação da Biodiversidade, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Ilhéus, BA, Brazil
Received 12 November 2016, Accepted 09 March 2017
Abstract

The Atlantic goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara, is a large-sized coastal fish that has been heavily overfished, mainly through spearfishing. In order to assess historical catches of the species, we interviewed spearfishers along three generations (young, middle-aged and old) in the traditional fishing village of Arraial do Cabo, southeastern Brazil. We identified a systematic and significant decline in the weight of the largest goliath grouper caught and in the number of individuals caught on the best day's catch through spearfisher generations. Today, the species is functionally extinct in the region and individuals are rarely sighted. Challenges to the conservation of goliath grouper populations throughout the Brazilian coast include the banishment of poaching as well as the support to alternative income sources through non-extractive uses, such as diving tourism.

Highlights

  • The local ecological knowledge of spearfishers was assessed to verify Goliath grouper catches.

  • A rapidly decline in the catches was verified over three decades in Arraial do Cabo.

  • Non-extractive use of the species through diving tourism is encouraged.

Keywords
Small-scale fishing, Atlantic goliath grouper, Endangered species, Marine megafauna, Overfishing, Apex predator