IT is a prized catch by fishermen and a delicious dish relished by seafood gourmets all over the world.
A reef fish, it is called the grouper. It is popular to Filipinos as "lapu-lapu." No "lauriat" is complete without it being served either as "agrio dulce" (sweet and sour) or steamed with soy sauce to flavor.
But the grouper's days are numbered. It may disappear from its spawning grounds which normally are 35 to 100 nautical miles from the shoreline.
Consequently, the fish's connoisseurs in coastal countries the world over will be missing it from the menu book in the kitchen of the house.
And renowned chefs of fivestar hotels and restaurants will soon delete the fish from their culinary masterpieces.
Advocates and campaigners in marine conservation are chiefly blaming overfishing for the grouper's near vanishing from the seas.
It has nine species: gag, Nassau, goliath, red, Warsaw, scamp, yellow-edge, snowy and speckled hind.
These species are vulnerable to overfishing because of their unique spawning habit. They congregate in large groups at specific places and times everytime they bear young.
The use of high-tech devices in commercial fishing such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) can pinpoint the grouper's breeding grounds with accuracy. Thus, the easy large-scale unrestricted harvests by fishermen.
Many of the grouper's species are waiting to be listed as endangered species.
This ensuing adversity has induced the US-based Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation to spring into action. Scientists and marine biologists of different nationalities have banded together to marshal a concerted program for the grouper's continued existence.
One of them is Dr. Felicia Coleman who is a specialist in reef fishes. She is program director for Fishery Resource Ecology of the Florida State University.
Her project program is one of the articles described in Pew Fellows Program annual meeting summary entitled Seeking Solutions for the Sea. …