Marine Biodiversity, 43(3), pp. 179-180, (2013)
Longnose parrotfish (Hipposcarus harid) routinely aggregate in large schools once a year during the spring (Gladstone 1996) in a shallow lagoon in the Farasan Islands (16°43′44.16″N, 42°4′24.47″E) of the Southern Red Sea. Known to locals for the past two centuries, this aggregation is the reason for Saudi Arabia’s traditional Hareed Festival . Between April 7 and 13 2012, 7–12 schools arrived in the lagoon. Schools were 3–4 m in diameter and contained approximately 200–500 tightly-packed individuals (20– 30 cm total length) . All fish displayed pale, initial phase coloration except for one terminal-phase individual per school. No schools of parrotfish were observed in open waters outside the lagoon area. In preparation for the Hareed Festival, on the 5th day of the aggregation, when most schools have arrived, local fishermen trap 3,000–5,000 parrotfish in the lagoon. Following tradition, hundreds of local people then gather along the shore. Equipped with nets, they await a starting signal and then rush into the lagoon. Whoever catches the largest biomass is awarded prize money from the prince of the Farasan region, again following a long tradition. Caught fish, which seem to be in unripe condition (no running eggs or milt observed) are then given away as presents to relatives and friends, consumed by the winners, or get discarded as the selling of the catch is by festival rules not permitted. After approximately 60 min, there are no live fish remaining in the enclosed area. Despite this intense harvesting, the aggregation still arrives every year. The Farasan Islands are above-described manner. It is unclear why and how this species aggregates in this one particular lagoon at a specific time every year. The observed behaviour is completely different from any other aggregation of parrotfishes (Sadovy de Mitcheson and Colin 2011) and at this stage does not appear to be a spawning aggregation. Interestingly, the aggregation always begins 1 day after the full moon, which was recently discovered to coincide with the annual coral spawning event (Bouwmeester et al. 2012). Whatever the reason, the predictability of this annual aggregation forms the basis of a long-running harvest event and cultural festival.