MANOA (KHNL) -- Ask any fisherman and they'll likely say the bigger the catch, the better.
But a University of Hawaii Marine Biologist urges fisherman to throw back larger fish and keep the smaller ones. This research may alarm fisherman set on reeling in the largest trophy fish they can hook.
"The best way to manage the population is let the reproductive stock stay. Don't take the reproductive stock away. Leave the big ones and take the middle sized ones, let the little ones grow," said Marine Biologist Charles Birkeland. "The best way to manage is let the reproductive stock stay don't take the reproductive stock away. Leave the big ones and take the middle sized ones let the little ones grow."
Fish are vital to maintaining a healthy reef. And the more fish you take away, the fewer fish there are to keep the reef free of algae. Seaweed suffocates an otherwise healthy reef.
"One big fish has hundreds of times the eggs of a medium size fish so it's to be calculated one 25 pound snapper has the same egg production as about 500 pounds of medium size fish," said Birkeland.
Scientists urge shoreline and near shore fisherman to respect the fact that larger, older fish lay many more eggs than their smaller counterparts and that means more fish in the future.
Large parrot fish are delicious, but they also have an important job. They are experts at cleaning algae from the reef.
"If you leave the big parrot fish we don't have as much algae and seaweed overgrowing the coral we need to keep the system so that the fish can keep the seaweed down."
This is a picture of a healthy reef on Maui thanks to the fish. But others are suffocated by seaweed with no larger fish around to keep it clean.