U.S. officials are seeking to limit the number of parrotfish caught in federal waters off St. Croix to help protect the brightly colored species, as well as fragile Caribbean coral reefs.

The National Marine Fisheries Service began collecting public comments on its proposal this week before issuing a decision. The agency would establish a minimum size limit on parrotfish, long a popular dish in St. Croix, the largest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands.

An estimated 142 of 177 small businesses in St. Croix are likely to be affected by the proposal, which calls for an 8- to 9-inch limit of certain parrotfish species, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The proposal would apply to both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Parrotfish make up nearly 37 percent of all fish commercially caught in St. Croix in terms of pounds, compared with 2 percent in Puerto Rico and 7 percent in St. Thomas and St. John.

If the proposal is approved, St. Croix could see a loss of up to 13,900 pounds (6,300 kilograms) of parrotfish a year, and a total annual revenue loss ranging from $4,800 to nearly $70,000 for small businesses, the federal agency found.

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