Letter to the Editor: Regarding the Lionfish Invasion

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Dear Editor,

I wanted to share some of the recent information we have been finding regarding the lionfish invasion that is threatening to severely damage to our eco-system and sequentially our tourism and livelihood.

We are hosting another lionfish tournament in May and are hoping this information will inspire the people of San Pedro and the fishing and diving community of Belize to get on board with the efforts to help eradicate this escalating crisis.
Here are a list of facts that were pulled from THE REEF website. The Reef.Org is an organization of divers and marine enthusiasts committed to ocean conservation.

Largest Lionfish caught

As you can surmise by the information presented below, we need to act and act now. We are asking the community to help us continue the fight with any donations for fuel for the fisherman and divers, for prizes to motivate people to participate in the tournament, and to begin to request restaurants add lionfish to their menu, creating a regular demand for the product.

Invasion history

• Two visually identical species of lionfish were introduced into the Atlantic via the US aquarium trade beginning in 1980’s

• Lionfish invaded range is North Carolina, USA to South America including the Gulf of Mexico

• Lionfish have established throughout most of the Caribbean in less than 3 years (first reports outside of the Bahamas in 2007)

Biology

• Lionfish may live longer than 15 years reaching sizes exceeding 47cm (~20 in.)

• Lionfish inhabit all marine habitat types and depths (shoreline to over 600’)

• Lionfish possess venomous spines capable of deterring predators and inflicting serious stings and reactions in humans

• Lionfish become sexually mature in less than 1-year and spawn in pairs

• In the Caribbean a single female lionfish can spawn over ~2 million eggs/year

• Reproduction occurs throughout the year about every 4 days

• Lionfish eggs are held together in a gelatinous mass and are dispersed at the ocean’s surface by currents, where their larval duration is ~26 days

Ecology

• Lionfish can reach densities over 200 adults per acre

• Lionfish are generalist carnivores that consume >56 species of fish and many invertebrate species, with prey up to half the lionfish’s body size

• Many lionfish prey are commercially, recreationally, or ecologically important fish

• Dense lionfish populations can consume more than 460,000 prey fish/acre/year

• On heavily invaded sites, lionfish have reduced their fish prey by up to 90% and continue to consume native fishes at unsustainable rates

• Native predators exhibit avoidance for lionfish

• Lionfish have very few parasites compared to native species

• Lionfish exhibit site fidelity

Control

• Lionfish are edible and considered a delicacy

• Local removal efforts can significantly reduce lionfish densities

Please help spread this information and join us in May to cheer on the contestants, learn how to fillet a lionfish and maybe even have a taste of the fish.

/s/ Noele McLain and the team at Wahoo’s Lounge

Resource: http://www.reef.org/reef_files/Lionfish%20quickfacts.pdf

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