Sat | Aug 18, 2018

A plea for the parrot fish

Published:Thursday | July 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM
The Parrot fish helps to clean coral reefs.

THE NEGRIL Area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT) has urged local fishers to join the effort to preserve the Parrot fish population, noting its value to Caribbean coral reefs.

"The sad reality is that most of the parrot fish caught is undersized and this has a negative impact on their reproduction and reef-building activities," NEPT said in a release to the media.

There are about 80 different species of Parrot fish - 30 of them found in Caribbean waters.

"Parrot fish eat algae that smother coral reef and result in coral loss. Caribbean reefs already suffer from excessive algal cover, a situation exacerbated by scooping out the grazing fish necessary to hold back algal growth. This situation leads to what scientists calls a 'death spiral'," NEPT explained.

"The death spiral is caused by the removal of ecologically beneficial fish - algae-eaters like Parrot fish - which cause the increase of algae and decreases coral health and eventually their existence. Unhealthy reefs leads to less reef creatures," NEPT added.

Parrot fish also help in sand generation.

"Sand is created when parrot fish use their beaks to scrape algae from the porous skeleton of dead coral rocks. In the process, large amounts of coral are taken in and ground by bony teeth plates to extract bits of plant material," NEPT noted.

"On average, nearly 75 per cent of gut content of parrot fish is composed of inorganic sediments. As they swim, they excrete long plumes of excavated waste. This process makes parrot fish one of the major producers of sand in the tropics," the entity added.

Unfortunately, the fish is a favourite on Jamaican dining tables, which fuel the fishers harvesting of them.

"There is also a growing consumer trend for small fish as they are sold at a lesser rate and the quantity is more. Fishermen's justification for supplying this demand is that - not everybody can afford the big fish for four hundred and fifty or five hundred dollars per pound -," NEPT revealed.

"The Negril area Environmental Protection Trust is, therefore, calling on all fishermen to consider a ban on this species as it would be working in their best interest and allow the juvenile fish to grow. We also ask all vendors and consumers to consider buying mature fish," the entity added.

In addition to its fish-sizing activities, NEPT is also working on a Consumer and Fisherman?s Guide to Mature Reef Fish.