Divers know the sound well: the loud crunching as parrotfish scrape their beak-like jaws across rock and coral in search of algae. These brilliantly colored, ravenous fish are essential to coral reef ecology. They remove harmful macroalgae that smother corals, allowing reefs to thrive, and they help break down rock and dead coral to form the sand that covers the beaches of tropical islands.
The latest project by Seacology, launched last month, will help protect these important herbivores. On the island of Providencia—off the coast of Nicaragua but part of Colombia’s territory—Seacology has a new partnership with the local fishing community. After Colombia lost a territorial dispute with Nicaragua, the island’s lobster fishers had to abandon 40% of their fishing grounds. This forced them to fish in shallower waters around the island when the lobster season is closed, putting pressure on reef fish populations, including parrotfish.
Their project, working with local NGO Fundación Providence, will assist these workers during the parts of the year when they can’t take lobster, by providing training and equipment to produce products from the plentiful fruit crops that grow on Providencia (most of the fishers are also farmers). In return, parrotfish harvesting will be banned.