Bahamas: Tracking Nassau Groupers

Shedd Aquarium has a long history of marine research and conservation efforts in the Bahamas, a country we’ve highlighted in our exhibits since we opened in 1930. A new multiyear study focusing on Nassau groupers deepens our commitment to the country’s fragile ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

Dr. Kristine Stump leads Shedd’s field studies of the Nassau grouper, a fish classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Growing up to a substantial 4 feet and 50 pounds, this grouper is one of the most important food fishes throughout the Caribbean and West Indies. It is also one of the most rapidly disappearing.

How to find a group of groupers
The project takes Kristine to the Bahamas in December and January, in the dead of Chicago’s winter but also at the height of the groupers’ breeding season. Her study focuses on the large groups, called spawning aggregations, in which these wide-ranging fish gather to reproduce. The predictable appearance of these aggregations at the same sites at the same times — around the winter full moons — makes the groupers easy targets for fishermen. The once-a-year opportunity also encourages overfishing, with heavy tolls on the large mature ones needed to replenish the population.

But it also enables Kristine to locate them, implant tiny acoustic transmitters, or tags, and then, using electronic monitors strategically placed on the ocean floor, track their seasonal movements. She’ll be able to follow individuals across hundreds of miles of the Bahamas archipelago to learn their migration patterns, spawning behaviors and habitat preferences.

Kristine’s findings will be used by the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources to create a science-based management plan to protect this ecologically and economically important endangered species.

Location

The Bahamas

About the team

Learn more about Dr. Stump and the conservation research team.

You can help!

You don’t have to be a scuba diver or a scientist to assist with Dr. Kristine’s Nassau grouper research. Your gift to Shedd’s annual fund will help support this and Shedd’s other conservation programs around the world.

About Dr. Kristine Stump
Dr. Kristine Stump is a postdoctoral research associate in Shedd Aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research. The marine biologist and fisheries expert has extensive animal tracking experience in the Bahamas, and she’s excited to be back in familiar waters as part of Shedd’s Caribbean research team. When she’s in Chicago, she oversees Shedd’s Marine and Island Ecology college course. Read her full biography and view her CV.