Parrotfish help keep corals healthy

Written by on April 22, 2016 in Coral Reefs, Fish, Policy & Ocean Law

A new study from the University of Queensland (UQ) shows that stricter fisheries regulations are necessary for the survival of Caribbean corals.

Parrotfish play an important role in coral reef ecosystems. Photo credit Julie Bedford, NOAA.

Parrotfish play an important role in coral reef ecosystems. Photo credit Julie Bedford, NOAA.

Specifically, the researchers identified parrotfish as a critical species since it eats seaweed that, if left to grow freely, can smother coral and prevent it from recovering.

“While several countries in the Caribbean have taken the bold step of banning the fishing of parrotfish (including Belize, Bonaire, Turks and Caicos Islands), parrotfish fisheries remain in much of the region,” Dr. Yves-Marie Bozec, researcher from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, explained in a news release.

When studying the effect that parrotfish fisheries have on reefs, the researchers found that “unregulated fisheries will seriously reduce the resilience of coral reefs.”

But the fisheries don’t have to be closed. The study identified ways to continue fishing without contributing to the decline of coral health. Dr. Bozec explained that “implementation of size limits and catch limits to less than 10 per cent of the fishable stock provide a far better outlook for reefs, while also allowing the fishery to persist.”

“We already know that failure to maintain coral habitats will lead to at least a threefold reduction in future fish catches,” said study co-author Professor Peter Mumby from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences.

“Ultimately, the more we do to maintain healthy coral reefs, the more likely it is that fishers’ livelihoods will be sustained into the future.”

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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