Save a Fish, Preserve an Ecosystem: The U.S. Caribbean

If you have ever enjoyed a stroll on the beach or snorkeled over the coral reefs, you can thank the parrotfish. These colorful creatures produce much of the sand on the Caribbean's idyllic shores and keep the brilliant reefs healthy. In an intricate underwater partnership, parrotfish feed on algae that otherwise smother reefs. They also clear the way for corals to re-grow by chewing off tiny bits of coral skeleton, which are then excreted as sand. One parrotfish can create up to 200 pounds of sand each year.

"Saving fish will help preserve the invaluable Caribbean ecosystem that draws tourists from around the world and powers the local economy."

– Holly Binns, manager, Campaign to End Overfishing in the Caribbean

Yet these important reef dwellers—critical to the survival of endangered corals—are plummeting to dangerously low population levels. People are fishing for them faster than they can reproduce. And parrotfish are not the only fish in trouble. Many other Caribbean species, including red and Nassau grouper, are imperiled. Others, such as queen conch and vermilion snapper, are at risk of depletion.

Fortunately, the Caribbean Fishery Management Council approved new rules in 2010 to place catch limits on 35 species, reducing the take by about 15 percent, depending upon the species. The plan is an important first step toward sustainable fishing, protection of coral reefs and restoration of species.

Today, the Campaign to End Overfishing in the Caribbean works to ensure that the plan remains on the right track and is strong enough to get the job done.