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Team effort for lionfish fight


Heather-Lynn Evanson

Team effort for lionfish fight

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Five years ago the alarm was raised.
Somehow the dreaded lionfish, which was not native to the Caribbean waters, had found their way to this part of the world.
Their sightings were painstakingly tracked as they made their way down through the islands of the region, until in 2012 they arrived in Barbadian waters.
And then, the fight was on; lionfish versus their only known predator – man.
Lionfish sightings have gone from a now paltry six to more than 30 a trip.
Sunday’s Lionfish Derby and Cook Off, conceptualised by the Coastal Zone Management Unit, removed more than 200 from the waters around the island.
This week, Heather-Lynn’s Habitat looks at all things lionfish.
The dreaded lionfish are here to stay.
And while the head of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) feels they cannot be eradicated, Dr Lorna Inniss feels they can be controlled.
But it would take the combined, concerted efforts of all the countries in the region to put a dent in the population of the migrating feeders.
“I’m not sure we can eradicate them (lionfish) now but I feel we will be able to control them,” she said.
“We have to be able to manage the population at a certain level. We need to be able to do that,” Inniss said, as she added that lionfish levels across the Caribbean were now critical.
“I really want to see everybody sitting in the same room, with the same plan. Wouldn’t it be nice if this Lionfish Derby was occurring in all of the 34 countries of the Caribbean?”
“To me that is much stronger than Barbados doing it on its own because we are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to managing the lionfish.”
Inniss was speaking after the island’s first ever Lionfish Derby and Cook Off – a culling/culinary event organised by the CZMU to help reduce the population in the island’s waters.
Since their man-made introduction into the region’s waters more than five years ago, they have become to marine life what locusts are to a farmer’s crops.
During Sunday’s event, more than 200 lionfish were removed, in the space of about six hours, by teams of divers who scoured the waters from St Lucy to St Philip.
Inniss noted that Barbados’ officials were in discussion with their counterparts across the region in an effort to manage the invasion.
But, said Inniss, those were only discussions.
“That is one of the proposals that is lagging behind the others. We are in touch with the other islands but, in my view, that is not enough. It is time for us to have a regional organisation take ownership of this programme and say ‘look, countries, come together. Let’s deal with this’.”
She said it’s not that other countries in the region have refused to tackle the problem; for most of them it’s a lack of technical expertise.
“They don’t have the capacity in some areas; it’s not that they don’t know because just about every island you go to you see the posters but you’re not necessarily seeing the action on the ground,” Inniss said.
And as the fish that has no known predator but man continues to flourish in our waters, Inniss said populations of reef fish had correspondingly decreased.
And that’s where local chefs and even housewives come in.
“So imagine our jacks, our snappers, our grunts, all these reef fish, the populations are going down; they are getting smaller and smaller and smaller. You can’t find them and you’re seeing more and more lionfish but if we begin to eat the lionfish, we are managing the invasion and we are adding protein to our diets.”

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