Presence of parrotfish are essential to survival of coral reefs
To better protect the coral reefs of the Caribbean, tighter fishery regulations are needed to offset the mounting pressures they face from global warming, pollution and the overfishing of herbivorous fish.
This was the conclusion reached by an international team led by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and University of Queensland (UQ). Details of the study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
According to Dr Yves-Marie Bozec, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and UQ School of Biological Sciences, herbivorous parrotfish are urgently needed in the coral reef ecosystem as they eat the algae that smother corals and inhibit them 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,” said Dr Bozec.
The team studied the impact of fishing activities on parrotfish as well as the role of the parrotfish’s role on coral reefs. They then concluded that having unregulated fisheries would seriously reduce the resilience of coral reefs.
Dr Bozec suggested the “implementation of size limits and catch limits to less than 10 percent of the fishable stock [to] provide a far better outlook for reefs, while also allowing the fishery to persist.”
Co-author Peter Mumby said that some countries had wanted to revise their current fisheries to reduce their impact on reefs, and their study had identified fisheries’ policies that could help to achieve this.
The researchers assert that science should be used to revise current fisheries practices for the herbivorous fish in the Caribbean. They have provided tools to help fisheries managers implement such changes.
Professor Mumby said, “The more we do to maintain healthy coral reefs, the more likely it is that fishers’ livelihoods will be sustained into the future. [...] We already know that failure to maintain coral habitats will lead to at least a threefold reduction in future fish catches.”
Link to study: www.pnas.org/.../2016/03/31/1601529113.full