Mesoamerican Race to Protect Parrotfish and the Reef

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) hiding amongst Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) colonies, IUCN redlist Critically Endangered, Cordelia Banks, Roatan Island, Bay Islands, Honduras.

This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.

This article was created in cooperation with iLCP Partner Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, one of the valuable organizations we joined with during our 2014 Mesoamerican Fish Refuge Campaign.

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) hiding amongst Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) colonies, IUCN redlist Critically Endangered, Cordelia Banks, Roatan Island, Bay Islands, Honduras.

In a dramatic twist to the typical fishing tournament, this friendly competition among the four countries sharing the Mesoamerican reef (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico) rewards international players who catch less fish and protect more coral reefs. The countries are closing in on the goal of becoming the world’s first ecoregion to achieve full protection of parrotfish, and results published this year show that their efforts are working.

New assessments from the 2015 report card for the Mesoamerican Reef show that parrotfish are increasing, along with the overall reef health. This is good news contrasting some dire predictions that Caribbean reefs might disappear within 20 years.

In April, Guatemala became the region’s newest country to implement a ban on fishing parrotfish, following the example of Belize, which created the first nationwide ban in 2009, and Honduras with a ban in the Bay Islands since 2010.

“This year Guatemala has joined these two countries with a new law protecting the species,” says Marisol Rueda Flores, 33, who works in Mexico with the Healthy Reefs Initiative, the publisher of the Mesoamerican Reef report. “This encouraged Mexico to start with a simple campaign about the importance of parrotfishes in the ecosystem.”

An illegally caught parrotfish, Roatan, Honduras.

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