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Belize protects its reef fish species

By Slickrock Adventures on December 14, 2011

According to this article on the New York Aquarium website, Belize passed two new laws in 2009 in order to increase protections for their world class coral reefs and the reef fish species that are symbiotically linked to them, such as this queen parrotfish “smiling” for the camera in this underwater photo taken just off shore from our Adventure Island on Long Caye. underwater photos queen parrotfish

“Belize is giving its beleaguered parrotfish, Nassau grouper, and other reef fish a chance to recover from years of overfishing. The national government and minister of agriculture and fisheries signed a sweeping set of new laws to protect the country’s extensive coral reefs, considered to be the most pristine in the Western Hemisphere.

Research by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) helped lay the groundwork for the laws, which set a new standard for coral reef protection in the Caribbean. The first of the new laws will protect parrotfish and other grazers, such as doctor and surgeonfish. These herbivores keep algae growth in check, enabling corals to flourish. In the past, fisherman did not target the grazing fish; rather, they caught mainly snappers and groupers. It was only when these species declined that they turned to the next tier of the food web, and parrotfish began to disappear.

WCS research from Glover’s Reef show that parrotfish are now the most commonly caught fish on this part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. As a consequence, coral cover has declined. Marine researchers expect that the new laws protecting parrotfish and other grazers will help the corals recover.”