Parrotfish, Uhu

Scarus spp.

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All applicable methods
Capture area — Worldwide (FAO All Areas)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail
Picture of Parrotfish, Uhu

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Parrotfish are moderately resilient to fishing but there is very little data available on their abundance or exploitation rates. And little or no management of the species. Despite the prevalence of marine reserves, the effectiveness of these conservation efforts, is rarely measured, and enforcement is often weak or absent in many parts of the world. Urgent protection and effective protective legislation is needed as well as continued monitoring of harvest levels and population status, especially for those species already at increased risk of extinction. Unless there is information available to demonstrate their source is sustainable this species is best avoided.


Parrotfish (also known as Uhu) get their name from their bright colours, and a distinctive beak-like structure formed from fused teeth. They strictly belong to the family Sacridae, but are now regarded as a subfamily of the Wrasses. Parrotfish are a keystone species providing an ecologically important role controlling algal growth (thus maintaining coral health) through grazing, and as bioeroders, grinding up ingested pieces of dead coral and rock in their pharyngeal mills to produce a fine sand (up to 90kg per fish per year). Interestingly, parrotfish use their pectoral fins instead of their tail as a primary form of locomotion.

Stock information

Stock Area

All Areas

Stock information

Although commonly found on rocky shores, reefs, and seagrass beds of tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide, the majority of parrotfish caught for the European market come from southeast Asia (FAO 71). Parrotfishes (and surgeonfishes) perform important functional roles in the dynamics of coral reef systems, for example they prevent algae from smothering the reef. This is a consequence of their varied feeding behaviors ranging from targeted consumption of living plant material (primarily surgeonfishes) to feeding on detrital aggregates that are either scraped from the reef surface or excavated from the deeper reef substratum (primarily parrotfishes). Increased fishing pressure and widespread habitat destruction have led to population declines for several species of these two groups. Species-specific data on global distribution, population status, life history characteristics, and major threats were compiled for each of the 179 known species of parrotfishes (and surgeonfishes) to determine the likelihood of extinction of each species under the Categories and Criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Due in part to the extensive distributions of most species and the life history traits exhibited in these two families, only three (1.7%) of the species are listed at an elevated risk of global extinction. The majority of the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes (86%) are listed as Least Concern, 10% are listed as Data Deficient and 1% are listed as Near Threatened. The risk of localized extinction, however, is higher in some areas, particularly in the Coral Triangle region, a geographical term given to the roughly triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals in each ecoregion. The relatively low proportion of species globally listed in threatened Categories is highly encouraging, (JLS - I’d wager the conservation concern with parrotfish is nothing to do with whether or not there are extinctions for the species - very unlikely for such wide-ranging species. We must therefore concentrate on the habitat damage caused by local extirpation, and overfishing of this keystone family). Some conservation successes are attributed to concentrated conservation efforts. High populations of parrotfish are associated with reef erosion. For example in the Florida Keys parrotfish declines are held responsible for rapidly reducing dead coral rubble to sand causing the reef to erode, and in Jamaica, their long-term overfishing has caused the reefs to collapse in the early 1990’s from a reef to an algal-dominated system.


There is little management of parrotfish other than through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The Maldives is an exception where the export of all parrotfish is prohibited because of their ecological importance. Parrotfish (over 20cm) as a family are monitored through Reef Check ( and provides information on abundance and other data required by reef managers, allowing them to make informed decisions on reef health and their management. Conservation actions such as improved marine reserve networks, more stringent fishing regulations, and continued monitoring of the population status at the species and community levels are imperative for the prevention of loss of important and iconic reef species such as parrotfish.

Capture Information

Nets (e.g.gill nets) and traps are used to capture parrotfish. Spearfishing can also occur. As the species is associated with reefs, fishing gears used to capture them can cause damage to the reef. Cyanide and explosives are sometimes used to capture reef species in the less developed world and are responsible for widespread damage to both reefs and non-target species.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


Comeros-Raynal MT, Choat JH, Polidoro BA, Clements KD, Abesamis R, et al. (2012);
The Likelihood of Extinction of Iconic and Dominant Herbivores and Detritivores of Coral Reefs: The Parrotfishes and Surgeonfishes. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39825. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039825;
Dr E Wood (pers. Comm)