Fishy February; A-Z of a Mermaid's Friends (N)
N - Napoleon Wrasse
Also known as a Humphead Wrasse - and characterised by a large hump at the top of its head, which grows with age. Like the whole wrasse family, the Napoleon Wrasse is a “protogynous hermaphrodite” and it changes from being female to male at some point in its life. The timing of this change differs between individuals, and the factors that trigger this are not yet known, but can happen when a dominant male dies. Males are blue or green, while females are shades of red, brown or grey. Living up to 50 years, they can grow over 2m and weigh up to 180kg! They can often be seen carrying sea urchins to a rock in their mouths, and then striking it to break them open for food. The Napoleon Wrasse is very important for the health of the coral reef. They feed on crown-of-thorn starfish, which are reef predators and continue to destroy coral reefs. The Napoleon Wrasse is an endangered species. The population has gone down 50% over the last 40 years. It is considered a delicacy in many South East Asian nations, and destructive fishing techniques including bombs and cyanide have resulted in habitat loss. Juveniles are most targeted by illegal fishing, and as Napoleon Wrasse are late to mature, this doesn’t leave enough adults in the wild to replenish populations.