Parrotfish are some of the most important fish on the Caribbean coral reefs. They are important to the Roatan fishing industry, but certainly not because they are a target species. Parrotfish feed on algae and dead coral. This is important for the fishing industry because algae is taking over the reefs and smothering the coral. Dying coral reefs lead to decimated fish populations and poor fishing conditions. For this reason, in this article, we celebrate this important fish.
Parrotfish received their name because of their fused teeth that look similar to a parrot’s beak. They are also brightly coloured and are known to change their colours and patterns several times as they mature.
As mentioned, parrotfish spend most of their time consuming algae attached to coral reefs as well as dead coral. The intake of limestone and calcium based algae cause the fish to excrete up to 700 kilograms of fine white sand every year.
Parrotfish are known to be hermaphrodites which means they have both male and female reproductive capabilities. The fish can release both sperm and eggs at the same time. Males tend to keep harems of females and when they die, a female changes sex to take its place.
The parrotfish’s main predator is humans. Although education has been helpful in teaching people to avoid catching parrotfish, they are still vulnerable to being bycatch in fishing nets. Parrotfish are also be targeted by moray eels, sharks and groupers.
The Importance Of Parrotfish
As noted, parrotfish help keep coral reefs healthy by limiting the growth of algae which effectively smother the coral causing them to die. The most robust coral reefs in the Caribbean have the highest populations of parrotfish.
Parrotfish contribute to sandy beaches and play a vital role in the Roatan fishing industry by maintaining a healthy environment for fish of all species. Listing parrotfish as a protected species would benefit the reefs, the fish populations and the tourism industry.