Caribbean Ocean Conservation

Populations of reef-dwellers have plummeted to dangerously low levels

Ocean health in the caribbean

Restoring healthy fish populations and protecting  ocean ecosystems through science-based management will help ensure bountiful seafood, productive fishing, and on-and-under-the-water enjoyment for generations to come.  

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

Yet populations of these important reef dwellers—critical to the survival of endangered corals—have plummeted to dangerously low levels due to decades of overfishing. Parrotfish aren’t the only species in trouble, and the U.S. Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John are making  progress toward ending and preventing overfishing. Yet parrotfish stand as an example of why it is critical to do more. Managers must recognize the important roles that fish play in ocean ecosystems and set fishing rules that account for their contributions.   

Embracing a new system of managing marine resources – ecosystem-based fisheries management -- includes protecting habitat where fish live and spawn and considering the interactions among predators and prey.  These efforts can help build more resilient ecosystems in the face of rising threats from climate change, ocean acidification, habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species such as the Pacific lionfish.

Coral reefs, marine life, and idyllic beaches draw millions of tourists who power the Caribbean economy.   It is growing more economically important to restore  these valuable resources through smart management that takes a big-picture view of what it takes to make the ocean healthy. 

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Media Contact

Debbie Salamone

Officer, Communications

321.972.5020