Behold, the jewel of our water, the parrotfish! Parrotfish are common around Bermuda and our waters are some of the only places where they can still be seen in large herds. Popular reefs for the spectacle include Gravelly Bay (next to John Smith’s) and Eastern Blue Cut.
1. Bermuda has at least nine species of parrotfish, from common and classic Queen parrotfish to somewhat less common Redband varieties. Parrotfish species are extremely well represented here due to our prohibition of their fishing.
2. Parrotfish are responsible for creating the brilliant pink sand of Bermuda’s beaches. As parrotfish scrape algae off of underwater rocks, a little bit of the rock comes off too, which is a waste product for the fish. Also present on the rocks are little invertebrates called red forams. When parrotfish ingest rock and red forams, it is expelled by the fish as sand, with the red forams giving the sand a pink tinge.
3. Parrotfish are a keystone species on the reef, which means that the healthy functioning of the ecosystem is heavily dependent on them. Parrotfish enable the continued growth of coral reefs by cleaning the reef of algae. If parrotfish aren’t present, corals can become out-competed or smothered by algae. They are also an important prey species for larger fish including the black grouper.
4. Parrotfish are a big contributing factor to the health of Bermuda’s reefs, which is why they are illegal to hunt here in Bermuda. In contrast, in Jamaica and many other Caribbean nations, the same laws protecting parrotfish don’t exist, and they have been overfished so much that they can no longer keep the algae in check, and coral reefs are dying as a result.
5. At night parrotfish sleep in a mucus cocoon, which acts as an early warning system that can alert the fish if predators disturb the membrane.
6. Parrotfish skin is covered in another mucus, which has antioxidant properties to repair bodily damage, repels parasites, and provides protection from UV light.
7. Many species are sequential hermaphrodites, starting as females and changing to males as they mature. Parrotfish can be difficult to identify because members of the same species can look drastically different depending on sex and developmental stage.