Marine scientist raps goverment inaction on parrotfish

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Marine biologist Dayne Buddo has rapped governments across the Caribbean for not taking active steps to conserve the region's declining parrotfish populations.

Speaking at a recent forum on the subject at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, Buddo, who works out of The University of the West Indies' Discovery Bay Marine Lab, noted that in addition to recommendations from the local scientific community, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) made recommendations to manage the shortage of parrotfish in 2013.

But, he asserted, no move has yet been taken.

The ICRI report, according to Buddo, “Implores governments across the region to do something actively for the conservation of not just parrotfish, but for herbivores, because it lends itself to better coral reef management. It also said that we should implement conservation and fisheries management strategies to restore populations. It has been five years since the ICRI has been imploring that the Government do something. Nothing has been done.”

“Management strategies will require a change in the status quo,” Buddo argued. “There is no way we can do the same thing we have been doing for several decades and expect the parrotfish populations to magically get better.”

He emphasised that immediate action on different fronts must be taken to save the parrotfish.

“We can't just passively hope and pray for the best. We have to recognise that it's not just fishing that's causing the problem. The fisherman gets a bad rap sometimes as being the only cause of the parrotfish and the decline of our reefs. It's not just overfishing (that causes the decline of parrotfish),” he expressed.

The other factors to which he pointed were poor water quality, construction projects along the coasts, and the predatory actions of the lionfish.

Actions that ought to be considered to preserve the fish include a total ban, a temporary ban, and open and closed seasons.

The marine expert said that under the total ban there should be “no removal of parrotfish from the marine environment, and by-catch must be returned to the seas immediately, even the dead ones”.

Should the Government decide on an open and closed season, Buddo said it would be defined by “no removal of parrotfish in the closed season”.

“The season has to be based on peaks in reproductive cycles. During the open season, manage removals. Have a minimum and maximum size. Assess the populations periodically to determine the health of the fishery and advise management options. Don't just say open season and closed season and forget about it. You have to check it,” he advised.

He stressed that “any strategy used must be supported with effective legislation, resources, public awareness or enforcement and alternatives for displacement.”

The forum was a collaborative effort by Sandals Resorts International's 'Save the Parrotfish, Save Our Islands' campaign, and The Nature Conservancy under the United States Agency for International Development-funded Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Program.

— Falon Folkes

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