Save The Parrotfish

Major pooper cleans coral and makes sand
BY: SANDY BEECH

Some years ago, the richness and diversity of fish in our seas was thought to be endless and infinite. The resources of the sea were plentiful and the oceans were full of food. Unfortunately, what will soon be endless will be the species of fish that will continue to disappear. We have been very irresponsible with the resources  the sea offers us by preying on and endangering a species that we do not even know.

parrotfish.JPGHere, in the state of Baja California Sur, particularly in the area of ‌Bay of La Paz and the nearby islands, there is a species of fish that will soon be under this threat: the parrotfish. Unfortunately, the sightings of this beautiful fish with striking colors are becoming fewer, as their numbers have fallen precipitously. The nightly spearfishing has significantly decimated the populations of our coasts. Other illegal fishing techniques have also contributed. What is most striking is that there is no regulation on the size captured. Just to show you this, go around the local markets and see that the parrot fish that are offered at the fishmongers are mostly small, do not reach their maturity or optimal size, caught by unscrupulous fishermen and bought by traders indifferent to the problem. Nobody cares if the population of this variety of fish has been reduced or affected, just for business purposes. Environmental local organizations like “Espiritu Santo es parte de ti” where Lucia Corral, Leonardo Gonzales and Elena Zavala  have done a great job  coming to the rescue of the parrotfish recently, asking society to not sell or eat it, but we should also add not to catch it.

Parrotfishes are key players in regulating algae and reef life. Their parrot-like beaks and fused-together teeth are used for scraping and biting dead coral, while additional teeth in their throats help to break it all down into sand. Snorkelers can actually hear them chomping or see the bite marks they leave on rocks. Because parrotfishes don’t have stomachs, their meals pass straight through the long intestine, exploding in a cloud of sand out the back door. Larger parrotfish are like sand factories, producing as much as 840 pounds of sand per year.

Those responsible for establishing laws about the protection of this Little critter have not yet noticed the seriousness of the problem so the parrotfish is unprotected by laws. It needs to be put on the list of endangered species. But there is hope: Teacher Ramón Ibarra and some students from alternative tourism training are developing a campaign to save this big time pooper. The campaign is promoted with t-shirts and posters which  seek  to generate awareness and hopefully, to the competent authorities.  Last  June, the group climbed to the top of one of the hills around Balandra just to show a banner with big letters  that reads “hold on parrotfish, we love you”.

We hope it's not too late.