Protected Resources

Bumphead Parrotfish

Bumphead parrotfish: At night in the Red Sea, Sudan (left; photo by Bob and Carol Cox); in Indonesian market (right; photo by Crispen Wilson).

Scientific name: Bolbometopon muricatum

Global Distribution and Estimated Population Size

Adult bumphead parrotfish inhabit coral reefs spanning from the Western Indian Ocean and Red Sea to the Central Pacific Ocean (see range map at left) within the national waters of 45 different countries. Surveys to determine the number of adult fish have been done in some locations, but it is difficult to conduct surveys everywhere because many locations where bumphead parrotfish live are remote and expensive to access. However, global population numbers can be estimated based on the amount of coral reefs present and known densities of fish from surveys. Current global estimates range from 2.2 to 4.5 million adult bumphead parrotfish (NOAA Fisheries Bumphead Parrotfish BRT, 2012)

In the United States, bumphead parrotfish are found in Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and the Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIAs) of Palmyra Atoll and Wake, Jarvis, Howland, and Baker Islands.

Legal Protection across the Range of the Species

Primary  threats to bumphead parrotfish across their range are adult harvest and juvenile habitat loss. Adult bumphead parrotfish tend to forage and sleep in groups, and often take shelter in shallow lagoons. Due to their large size and tendency to form groups, adults are vulnerable to harvest by spearfishing, netting, trapping, and angling. Juvenile bumphead parrotfish live in mangrove swamps and shallow seagrass and coral lagoons. Pollution, mangrove harvest, dredging, and development can all negatively affect juvenile habitat.

While there are no international laws that control adult harvest and activities contributing to juvenile habitat loss, there are regulations at the national/state/territory levels. Adult harvest is regulated by fishing gear restrictions, such as bans on certain gear types and limiting fishing to certain times of the day or to certain areas. For example, in some countries there is a ban on fishing with spearguns inside marine parks or reserves, but using spearguns outside of these areas is permitted. There are also specific regulations for harvesting bumphead parrotfish in multiple countries. These "species-specific" regulations either implement a complete ban on harvest, or restrict sizes and/or the number of fish that can be harvested. Juvenile habitat loss is regulated by limiting coastal development, pollution, and mangrove harvest. Marine protected areas (MPAs) and reserves protect bumphead parrotfish by limiting or banning fishing, and protecting juvenile habitat. A detailed analysis of regulations and protective efforts in the 45 countries where bumphead parrotfish occur can be found in the Management Report at the link below:

Current Management Issues

90-day finding on the petition to list bumphead parrotfish:
In response to the petition from WildEarth Guardians, on Friday, April 2, 2010, we announced through a 90-day finding in the Federal Register that the petitioned action presents "substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted" (75 FR 16713).

After the 90-day finding was published, we initiated a status review of bumphead parrotfish to determine if listing under the ESA is warranted. Status reviews initiated for species petitioned under the ESA review the "best available scientific and commercial information" to assess the status of the species. The 90-day finding does not pre-judge the outcome of the listing status. The status review is used in determining whether or not to propose listing under the ESA and this information is presented in a 12-month finding. We are required to publish a 12-month finding in the Federal Register which includes a general notice and, if necessary, the complete text of a proposed regulation to implement such action within 12 months after receiving the petition. See the ESA listing process page for more information:

12-month finding on the petition to list bumphead parrotfish:
After issuing a substantial 90-day finding and initating a status review of the bumphead parrotfish in response to a petition from WildEarth Guardians, on November 7, 2012 we announced through a 12-month finding in the Federal Register that the petitioned action is Not Warranted (77 FR 66799).

During the Status Review, NOAA Fisheries considered the best available scientific and commercial information to assess the status of the species. We determined that bumphead parrotfish are a single species, have a wide geographic range, are depleted in some areas but abundant in others, and the estimated global population size is 2.2 to 4.5 million adults. They are vulnerable to a variety of threats and there is a wide array of existing regulatory mechanisms throughout their range that may confer some conservation benefit. We also determined that, although bumphead parrotfish have likely experienced historical population decline and are likely to continue to decline at some undetermined rate into the future, they are not likely to fall below a “critical risk threshold” (defined in the BRT Report) within the foreseeable future.  As such, they do not meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the ESA and are not warranted for listing. 

Natural History

Physical Description


Potential Threats

More Information