Protect the beautiful Parrotfish!

Cabarete is blessed to be by the ocean. Located on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, Cabarete boasts beautiful beaches, a protective coral reef, and fresh fish dinners.

All this amazing nature relies on a delicate balance of wildlife that inhabits the waters.

The parrotfish plays a key role in maintaining the health of the coral reef and our lush beaches.

Unfortunately, the colourful parrotfish is currently an endangered species, mainly due to overfishing and being eaten by lionfish, pest of the sea.

In the Caribbean, it’s common to see parrotfish or loro pop up on your dinner plate. Especially, in small beachside or roadside eateries.

Indeed, many local fishermen don’t know how important the fish are, and lack awareness of sustainable fishing practices.

Let’s learn some more about this remarkable fish.

Sex changes and homemade pyjamas

The parrotfish is quite the fluid creature. It baffles scientists with its ability to change sex multiple times over its lifetime. They hang around in schools, or harems with a dominant male. When this ‘supermale’ dies, one of the females will switch to male and assume his role!

Parrotfish colouring is spectacular. Their bright colours vary dramatically within the same species, and there is a lot of overlap across species, making them a challenge to classify.

They also wear pyjamas. Well, kind of. Parrotfish secrete a sort of mucus sack every night before they go to sleep. It forms a transparent cocoon around them, and we think it might help mask their smell from the prying noses of predators.

Parrotfish teeth are really, really hard. They are made of fluorapatite, one of the hardest biominerals in the world. Parrotfish teeth are harder than metals like copper and silver, that’s how they can much on the reef so well!

As well as generally being a cool and awesome fish, parrotfish also do some super important work for the environment.

reefmuncher parrotfish

Coral and beach superheroes

Parrotfish live off a diet of algae that is found in the coral reef. They have special teeth in their throat that grind up the hard coral into little bits. These bits are important to us because they make their way out of the parrotfish and onto our beaches as sand.

Yes, white sand is largely fish poop. Wiggle your toes in that.

Estimates vary, but parrotfish may be able to produce up to 380kg (840lbs) of sand every year. That’s a lot of beach!

Beach erosion is a serious concern, and overfishing parrotfish will only put our coastlines in greater peril.

Caribbean economies rely heavily on tourists flocking to their beautiful white-sand (parrotfish poop) beaches. Further loss of beach sand could be disastrous for their livelihood.

Marine conservation organisations are working to protect parrotfish, as they reckon the fish are super important to the health and longevity of the coral reef.

In the Caribbean, parrotfish eat sponges and algae, which helps maintain the coral reef and prevent it from being overgrown. Sort of like Nature’s underwater lawnmowers.

In other words: Save the parrotfish, save the reef.

Did you know?

Raw parrotfish is a Polynesian delicacy, and was once considered so special it was only eaten by royals.

Parrotfish get their name from their fused mouth structures that look like parrot beaks. And their pretty colours.

Over to you!

As a tourist on vacation in the Caribbean, you can help protect our reef and beaches by not supporting the parrotfish fishing cycle. Take care to ask in a restaurant which fish is being served, and don’t eat parrotfish (loro)!

Our resident nutritionist recommends the Seafood Watch app by Monterey Bay Aquarium. It has excellent searchable information to help you make sustainable, ocean-friendly choices.

A handy tool, indeed.