This fish helps ‘save’ the environment一so please stop buying and eating them

Published February 19, 2021, 12:41 AM

by Johannes Chua

It can be eaten, but why would you want to eat a parrot fish?  

This is the season of Lent, when fish is all you need for sustenance, but (again) why parrot fish? 

Aside from its relatively affordable meat (it costs P280 per kilo inside a QC market), it is good for stew and curry dishes, according to the aling tindera whose stall was filled with trays of dead parrot fish. I asked her if she was aware of the multiple “environmental benefits” that the parrot fish provides our waters. She gave me a blank look, conveying to me that she wasn’t interested in talking to a weirdo. She just needed to sell her stuff. She seemed to say: “If you’re not buying, better sashay away!” 

I assume that these trays of parrot fish are available in that market because there is a huge demand for them. Sadly, Filipino consumers are not aware of the contributions of the parrot fish in maintaining the balance of our waters. 

On sale at the market: A tray of dead parrot fish (All photos by Johannes L. Chua)

So, how could I convince aling tindera next time to stop selling the parrot fish? 

According to nature.org, the parrot fish are “colorful, tropical creatures that spend about 90 percent of their day eating algae off coral reefs.” 

“This almost-constant eating performs the essential task of cleaning the reefs, which helps the corals stay healthy and thriving,” the site said. “The parrot fishes’ digestive system, which includes more teeth inside their throats, breaks down coral bits into white sands. Known as bio-erosion, this process helps control algae populations and create new surfaces for baby corals to attach to and grow.”

Scientists estimate that a single parrot fish can “poop out more than 2,000 pounds of sand each year!” 

A single parrot fish can ‘poop 2,000 pounds of sand annually’ contributing to the health of our waters.

Parrot fish are also essential to the survival of coral as they act as “natural cleaners” of parasites that grow on it.

According to a 2012 study cited by wannaboats.com, the loss of parrot fish “disturbs the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.”

The study also found that “Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50 percent since the ‘70s and may disappear in the next 20 years as a direct result of the loss of parrot fish and sea urchins — the area’s two main grazers.” 

The study further added that “some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those in areas where governments have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrot fish, such as fish traps and spearfishing.”

In short, if there are no parrot fish, corals would simply die. If corals die, then sea life would drastically suffer. Eventually, millions of people would lose their food and income sources. Aling tindera would have nothing to sell, except perhaps some aquarium-grown fish.   

Due to massive fishing, parrot fish is now extinct in Guam and heavily depleted in Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, and others parts of the Solomon Islands. Let’s hope that it is not yet too late for our country to lose our parrot fish. When we lose them, it is a massive loss for our ecosystem.

Heads of parrot fish are sold at P100 a kilo.
 
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