Effects of fishing on sex-changing Caribbean parrot fishes

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We studied parrotfish (Scaridae) assemblages on coral reefs in relation to fishing pressure around six Caribbean islands. Fishing intensity ranged from virtually none in Bonaire, and increased through Saba, Puerto Rico, St Lucia and Dominica to extremely high levels in Jamaica. In St Lucia we also compared parrotfish assemblages between fishing grounds and fully protected marine reserves, from 1995, 6 months prior to establishment, to 2001. Within each country we performed replicate counts of the number and size of all parrotfish species within, or passing through our counting area. From these data we calculated biomass for seven species. Biomass of the two largest species, Sparisoma viride and Scarus vetula, was greatest in islands with low fishing pressure (P<0.001). By contrast, smaller species constituted an increasing proportion of the total parrotfish assemblage as fishing pressure increased (P<0.001 in all cases). Parrotfish are protogynous hermaphrodites with two distinct colour phases. The initial phase is predominantly female, and the terminal phase exclusive to sexually mature males. The average size of all species except Sc. vetula tended to decrease with increasing fishing pressure. Furthermore, percentages of fish that were terminal phase males showed order of magnitude declines with increasing fishing pressure for Sp. viride and Sc. vetula. Terminal males of these species were absent from counts in Jamaica and virtually absent from Dominica suggesting that persistence of these populations may depend on recruitment from distant sources. Following reserve implementation in St Lucia, all species, except uncommon Sp. chrysopterum, increased in mean biomass (P<0.001 in all cases). In 6 years the total biomass for all species combined increased to become nearly four times as high in reserves and almost twice as high in fishing grounds [P<0.001 (year effect); P<0.001 (protection effect); P<0.001 (year x protection)], and mean size of five species increased significantly in both reserves and fishing grounds. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004


  • Scaridae
  • coral reef
  • marine reserve
  • sex ratio
  • SIZE
  • AGE

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