Grouper, an endangered marine species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, has been put under strict protection and the fishing, collecting or selling of the species has been prohibited in Turkey. Largely dependent on rocky and coral reefs, the grouper population has declined significantly and the protective ban will continue until 2020. Those who fail to comply will have to pay a fine of TL 113 ($38).
Grouper, a family of fish often found in coral reefs, is prized for the quality of their flesh. As part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, a team of scientists spent 10 years assessing the status of 163 grouper species worldwide. According to the Science Daily, 20 species (12 percent) are at risk of extinction if current over-fishing trends continue, with an additional 22 species (13 percent) are nearing threatened status. "If they disappear from coral reefs this would upset the ecological balance of those threatened ecosystems, since they are ubiquitous predators and may play a large role in controlling the abundance of animals farther down the food chain," the study reported.
In Turkey, grouper mainly lives in the Mediterranean, while their main habitat is near the Kaş and Kekova coasts. Yaprak Arda of the World Wildlife Forum (WWF) said that the population of groupers has been high in the past but due to illegal fishing and pollution, their population numbers have dwindled. "[Grouper] is now an endangered species that needs to be protected carefully," Arda said. The WWF's Turkey branch carries out projects for the protection of this fish especially near the Kaş and Kekova coasts. The members gather with divers, diving clubs and boat owners to raise awareness. National scuba diver Şahika Ercümen also released a video to draw attention to the groupers population in Turkey. The video also shows the rich marine life in the Mediterranean Sea.