Parrotfish excrete waste from the edible portions of rock they consume helping to build up many of Jamaica’s sandy beaches.
They are a favourite for fishermen and fish vendors because of their great numbers,delicious taste and provide a major source of income for many fishermen in Jamaica.
Both local and international groups are lobbying for a parrotfish ban citing concerns that the fish clean coral reefs by eating the algae that grows on them, and they excrete sand, which helps to counter beach erosion.
According to a report by the Observer, Lenbert Williams, director of projects with the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society, told the popular newspaper that the parrotfish should be declared an endangered species in order to solve both problems or at least stem the tide of degradation.
“A mature parrotfish can weigh up to 40 lbs and in its lifetime it generates about 800 lbs of sand.
So every time you eat a parrotfish you are denying the beach of 800 lbs of sand,” he said. He explained that the parrotfish population is at risk from overfishing, as well as from the predatory lionfish.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), also recommended that parrotfish be listed as a specially protected species under the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol).
In the report published by the Observer, fishermen wasted no time to voice their disgust on a potential parrotfish ban:
“The most fish in the sea is parrot, so if we can’t catch it what we going to do? All the fish in the sea feed on coral so they would have to ban everything and that makes no sense!” he said.
“When unnuh tek parrotfish from people, how dem a go send dem pickney go school?” fisherwoman Olga Watt asked.
“Ah pure head an belly dem waan see?” added a fish vendor who was seated nearby but who declined giving her name. She was referring to the stereotypical image of severely malnourished children with swollen tummies and heads too large for their bodies.
She added: “Ah waan dem waan parrotfish fi mek more beach fi di tourist dem an we cyaan go deh,” making reference to the growing concern that locals are being barred from beaches meant for the public. The views were similar at the Forum fishing beach, also in Portmore.
“Parrot is the fish that we catch the most out of the sea. There is a wider variety of them than any other fish. Banning it will very seriously affect our livelihood,” Helen Blair-Brown told the Observer.
“If dem ban parrotfish, ah mash wi mash up,” a man passing by said loudly.
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