Svenska Dagbladet, Swedens second largest daily newspaper, recently ran a story on the appearance of parrotfish in Swedish fishmarkets. Parrotfish can be likened to lawnmowers of the reef, and keep algae from smothering coral reefs.
Parrotfish are not known to be an essential part of the Scandinavian kitchen, so one wonders what they are doing being flown halfway across the world to a country that has enough tasty seafood to satisfy its needs? When contacted by reporters store managers claimed that distributors would recomend parrotfish as a colourful species that would certainly attract buyers. They also explained that they did have policies regarding the sale of red-listed species, but that parrotfish do not appear on any such lists (WWF and IUCN). This is problematic, as models and observation suggest that the levels of parrotfish biomass required to safeguard reefs against algal domination, are probably much higher than those that would classify them as being red-listed.
And this doesn’t seem to be a one-off incident. Two PhD-students from Stockholm University, Jerker Lokrantz and Matilda Thyresson, are currently following up reports of large (several tons) shipments of parrotfish from Vietnam arriving to Sweden via the Netherlands. This whole story really illustrates the challenges facing marine resource management in the face of rapid exploitation driven by a globalized market, as highlighted by Berkes et al in the 2006 Science article “Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources“.