Resolution provides measures to protect corals in the Colombia Caribbean
Photo: Ratha Grimes (CC BY 2.0) .
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23 July 2019
Setting a positive precedent in Colombia and an important region of the Greater Caribbean, CORALINA has prohibited the fishing and commercialization of several species of herbivorous and omnivorous fish, a measure aimed at conserving the area’s coral reef ecosystems.
San Andrés, Colombia. With the objective of conserving the coral reef and beach ecosystems of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, Colombia, the region’s autonomous corporation authority emitted a resolution prohibiting the capture and commercialization of several species of herbivorous and omnivorous fish. The waters around these Caribbean islands host the greatest marine and coastal biodiversity in Colombia, with more than 2,354 marine species registered to date.
“This progress towards the conservation of corals and beaches occurs after a process of more than 20 years that included environmental education, research and monitoring,” said Nacor Bolaños, coordinator of protected areas for the Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (CORALINA). “The need to protect parrotfish and other species of herbivorous and omnivorous fish was supported by artisanal fishermen themselves and by local communities, with whom we met.”
The resolution issued by the decentralized public entity protects 14 species of parrotfish, four of surgeonfish, five of butterfly fish and six species of angelfish.
It completely prohibits commercial, industrial, sport, or recreational fishing of these species. It also prohibits commercial fishing using harpoons and/or similar fishing gears. It also completely restricts their commercialization, possession and storage, as well as their transfer to other areas of the country.
“The resolution is of great importance because it recognizes the benefits of corals for fishing, tourism, pharmaceutical resources, and protection against the impacts of the climate crisis,” said Maria José Gonzalez-Bernat, scientific advisor to AIDA. “It also recognizes the vital role several species of fish play in keeping these ecosystems healthy.”
By feeding on algae that take away light and space from corals, herbivorous fish support the survival of these fragile environments. Numerous studies have demonstrated that parrotfish contribute to the growth of corals and the creation of sand for beaches. Some omnivorous species like angelfish also help to clean algae from corals.
AIDA has supported CORALINA’s initiative since its inception, providing technical, scientific and legal information; and has advocated for the inclusion in the resolution of international and regional commitments that protect these fish.
The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina concentrates 77 percent of the surface coral areas of Colombia and houses the third largest coral reef in the world. The area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000, and borders eight nations of the Greater Caribbean: Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
Yet its coral coverage has deteriorated over time due to natural phenomenon and human activities, as have populations of herbivorous fish like the parrotfish.
“In this sense, this regulation is an example for other countries with coral reefs along their coasts,” said Gonzalez-Bernat. “The resolution is based on scientific information and emphasizes the international legal framework that recommends the protection of corals and the fish that support their conservation.”