Mill, A.C.

Caribbean parrotfish density and size inside and outside marine protected area

The direct and indirect impacts of the increase in human population, in particular the growing demand for food, as well as various aspects of climate change pose threats to the abundance of parrotfishes (Scarinae), the main coral reef grazers. One way to reduce fishing is by forming marine protected area (MPA). MPAs tend to increase the abundance of marine fish. Well-managed MPA, with effective protection from fishing, could also benefit sex-changing fish populations. The objectives of this research are to assess effects of MPAs on parrotfish abundance and biomass and how do parrotfish abundance and size in the different life phases differ between sites within MPAs and outside MPAs. Fish surveys were conducted in eight Caribbean countries (Antigua, Bonaire, Barbados, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG)) using an underwater visual census technique. The differences between parrotfish density and size within and outside MPAs were assessed. Mean parrotfish numerical density was slightly higher at MPA sites than at non-MPA sites but this was not significant. A significant difference was found between parrotfish biomass within and without the MPAs. The abundance biomass comparison (ABC) results showed that out of 33 MPA sites, 79% had a positive index and 21% a negative W-index value. In contrast, only 49% of non-MPA sites surveyed had a positive W-index. Sites within an MPA generally had higher mean parrotfish sizes than those outside the MPA, except for the juvenile phase. The present results reinforce the belief that parrotfish abundance and biomass, which where depleted by fishing, can be increased through applying significant levels of protection. However further research is needed on the effectiveness and duration of protection which are necessary to produce desired levels of improvement in parrotfish abundance, biomass and size.


Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring
Geographic location