The beautiful parrotfish (family Scaridae) performs many roles in coral reef ecosystems. With their large teeth they munch algae off the coral so that it stays healthy and alive. Parrotfish are constantly eating and digesting bits of coral whole, and excreting sand that helps create beaches. Since parrotfish spend all day searching the reef for food to eat and then turning it to sand, they actually produce up to 2,200 pounds (1 metric ton) of sand per year.
Ocean Conservancy tells us that in “reefs, parrotfish play a critical role as grazers keeping algae in check. Without grazers, algae out-compete the coral until they weaken or even die.” Actively protecting the gorgeous parrotfish from overfishing is the most important way to make sure that reefs are healthy, resilient, and bountiful.
Reef Relief also explains,
“The Destruction of North America’s only living coral reef poses a direct threat to these and many other unique marine species. The solution is to stop the flow of nutrients and other forms of marine pollution to the fragile ecosystem, as well as educate people to prevent them from anchoring on, touching, standing on or harvesting live coral”
Parrotfish perform so many amazing tasks for coral ecosystems and they are some of the most beautiful fish to see snorkeling. Whenever I see healthy coral organism cities and a soft sandy patch near it, I know parrotfish reside there. Sadly, fishing parrotfish for food is a real problem for reefs, and spreading the word about the parrotfish (in their endangered state) and their importance to ocean ecosystems is critical for their survival as well as the corals.