[Coral-List] Bumphead parrotfish Endangered Species protection petition

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Sat Feb 6 19:07:04 EST 2010

I just found out that an NGO (Wildearth Guardians) in the U.S. has 
petitioned for the bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) to receive 
protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  The petition makes 
interesting reading, and can be found at:


As I understand it, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a part of 
NOAA, has 90 days to review the petition, and decide whether it as worthy of 
investigating.  They may only use information contained in the petition 
during this phase.  If they decide it is worth investigating, then they have 
a year to make a final decision, and can gather information from any and all 

    I would point out one small correction to the petition, and that is it 
states that American Samoa has protected bumphead parrotfish.  That is not 
true, the promise was made to protect them about 2 years ago, but it has not 
happened yet.  It is said to be close to happening.

Bumphead Parrotfish along with other large reef fish such as Humphead Wrasse 
and several shark species are particularly vulnerable to fishing, and 
fishing has reduced populations greatly in many locations, particularly near 
people.  On most near-pristine reefs, large fish often referred to as apex 
predators can represent around 50% of all the reef fish biomass, while near 
people they often represent a negligable portion of the biomass, and are the 
primary reason why reefs near people often have half or less of the fish 
biomass of near-pristine reefs.  Removing such a huge portion of the natural 
ecosystem carries with it the risk of unknown future consequences, much as 
the removal of herbivores had on Caribbean reefs.  Removal of large 
predators on land and in water often sets off trophic cascades with 
unpredicted major effects.  Because of hysteresis effects in phase shifts, 
the vulnerability to damage may not be apparent until the phase shift has 
happened, and trying to reverse the phase shift may be difficult or next to 
impossible due to the hysteresis.  Is it wise for most most coral reefs 
around the world to be missing their large fish and half or more of their 
fish biomass??

    For more information, see:

Fenner, D.  2009.  The largest reef fish species were gone most places in 
the world even before scientists knew about it.




Douglas Fenner
American Samoa 

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