|Capture of parrotfish banned to protect coral reefs|
|Written by DECR|
|Wednesday, 07 December 2011 17:52|
It is a widely known fact that globally, coral reefs are facing many negative impacts that not only affect the ecological balance of these delicate ecosystems, but also the livelihood of those who depend on it for food and income.
These factors include land-based pollution, climate change, improper fishing practices and overfishing to name a few. Despite having some of the most pristine coral reefs remaining in the Caribbean, the Turks and Caicos Islands are not exempt from these impacts with one of the primary threats to coral reef health and sustainability being that of overfishing and overgrowth of algae resulting from land-based source of nutrient/pollution.
As such, the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) has recently taken steps to initiate mitigation measures to address this issue through a revision of the Fisheries Protection Ordinance and Regulations to incorporate the management of a key species, the parrotfish.
Parrotfish belong to a colourful group of fish known as Scaridae and are locally abundant on many coral reefs and seagrass beds across the Caribbean, playing a vital role in creating beach quality sand through their feeding habits.
Parrotfish are named for their dentition because they have numerous teeth arranged in a tightly packed mosaic on the external surface of their jaw bones forming a parrot-like beak which they use to rasp/scrape algae from coral and other rocky substrates.
Their teeth then grind up the coral rock ingested during feeding which is then digested and excreted as sand helping to create small islands and also contribute to the development of the sandy beaches of the TCI. Overall, their feeding activity is important for the production and distribution of coral sands in the reef biome ultimately sustaining our delicate coastlines and most importantly, prevents algae from choking coral.
It is worth noting that one parrotfish can produce 90 kilograms of sand each year, which is equivalent to two 100-pound bags of rice.
There are 90 different species of parrotfish with approximately 11 species found here in the TCI, which include the Spotlight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride), the Princess Parrotfish (Scarus taeniopterus) and the Redband Parrotfish (Sparisoma aurofrenatum) to name a few.
By way of the recent review of the Fisheries Protection Ordinance and Regulations put forward for signing and approval by His Excellency the Gov. Ric Todd on Nov. 4 (effective as of Dec. 1), the DECR hopes that both species numbers and populations of parrotfish can be maintained to ensure sustained biodiversity, coral reef health and the preservation TCI’s fishing industry.
The new regulations now make it illegal for individuals to catch or have parrotfish for sale. To date, outside of Belize, the TCI is one of the few Caribbean countries known to take such a bold initiative in an effort to protect this vital resource towards preventing widespread coral reef destruction as seen in other islands such as Jamaica, due primarily to overfishing of parrotfish.
In keeping with these regulations, the general public is hereby advised that under Section 3 of the Fisheries Protection Ordinance:
The penalty for such an offence is $5,000.
For more information, please contact the DECR office Providenciales at 941-5122, Grand Turk at 946-2801 and South Caicos at 946-3306, or visit their website at www.environment.tc.
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