New Caledonia Expedition: An Army of Giant Parrotfish

A School of Bumphead Parrotfish at Astrolabe Reef in New Caledonia. Photo by Enric Sala.
A School of Bumphead Parrotfish at Astrolabe Reef in New Caledonia. (Photo by Enric Sala)

Today we dove at Astrolabe Reef, a remote coral atoll northeast of New Caledonia. So far it’s the best place we have explored.

In our dives today we’ve seen everything one hopes to see: sharks, groupers, Napoleon wrasse, bright red old sea fans, and many other gorgeous animals. But the most impressive sight – and one that we will remember for a long time – was a school of 75 bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum). They are the largest of the parrotfishes, with a maximum length of 130cm and can weigh up to 50kg! The bumphead parrotfish is a vulnerable species, and a great indicator of fishing pressure: they are one of the few species to go away when people start fishing a reef.

This is why we are so excited and happy today, because we know that Astrolabe is still a pristine reef full of large animals. This is the most precious jewel we have explored in the last three weeks.

Click here to view all New Caledonia expedition blog posts.

This expedition is led by National Geographic in collaboration with the Institute de Recherche pour le Development (IRD) of New Caledonia and the Waitt Institute.

Thanks to Pristine Seas sponsors Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

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Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.