Overfishing threatens the health of coral reefs, a series of studies done in the Philippines indicates.
The studies found coral reefs with an abundance of various species of fish around them tended to be healthier than those in regions subject to overfishing, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The healthier reefs were found in areas of the Philippines where fishing is banned.
The researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said in the absence of predatory fish, disease-carrying ones seemed to thrive.
They said one type of coral reef disease appeared to be transmitted by the butterflyfish or Chaetodontidae, which feed on coral reefs but which are not caught for food, the report said.
The researchers found there was an unusually high abundance of butterflyfish in regions with heavily diseased reefs, while their numbers were smaller where there was an abundance of other species.
“People like to eat the big predators such as groupers and a few others,” said lead researcher Laurie Raymundo from the University of Guam.
“And the general trend is that where you find more functional diversity, you find fewer butterflyfish.”
The BBC noted the Caribbean is one of the regions worst affected by coral diseases and that has been blamed on the disappearance of the naturally abundant species such as elkhorn and staghorn.