Parrotfish, an algae-eating reef fish that helps reefs to remain healthy is the subject of potential protections in the U.S. Virgin Islands by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The service is currently collecting public comments on a proposal it put forth to protect parrotfish in the islands by imposing an 8 to 9 inch limit on certain parrotfish species. According to an Associated Press report, the proposal would apply to recreational and commercial fisherman in the islands and was made in an effort to ensure that ample populations of the fish remain on the reefs to eat algae, which can blanket and destroy coral reefs very quickly.
The proposed rule would set the catchable minimum size of the redband parrotfish (Sparisoma aurofrenatum) to 8 inches and 9 inches for all other parrotfish species. The harvesting of midnight, blue, and rainbow parrotfish would remain in effect. The redband parrotfish size limit of 8 inches was set because the species is smaller in size than the other parrotfish species and would help to reduce the mortality of smaller, mostly female fish.
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According to the report, commercial harvesting of three parrotfish species in U.S. Caribbean waters was made illegal in 2011, and recreational harvesting of parrotfish was restricted. These included the blue, midnight, and rainbow parrotfish. In January 2012, the environmental group EarthJustice sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, claiming that the harvesting of parrotfish was allowed by federal regulators, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.