Lionfish have now become common place in the Caribbean and even along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, the lionfish is alien to these waters and they have spread like wild-fire. Where did they come from? Well, I have my suspicions about a large hotel in Bahamas that houses a large display of aquariums. I believe that their poor practices lead to this invasion that now threatens the native species of these waters.
On my recent trip to Belize the divemaster had told me that the government was asking all dive professionals to kill any lionfish they encounter on the reefs. I've heard of this practice in many places I've travelled to in the Caribbean over the last 5 or more years. Divemasters and instructors will carry a spear with them to kill and collect any lionfish they see. Some are also trying to encourage larger predators such as barracuda and sharks to eat them by feeding their kills to them.
So what are my thoughts on the situation? I'd be a liar if I said I didn't enjoy seeing them on my dives or that I haven't treasured the amazing footage and photos I've taken of them. But I'd hate to see all the other creatures and fish I enjoy to suffer from their presence. I think that population control is important and that encouraging divers to participate in this fight is a great way to go about it. I don't believe that we will be able to rid the waters of the Caribbean and Atlantic of this invasive species by this method but slowing them down is still a good step. How about putting lionfish on the menu as the catch of the day? Maybe if we could convert shark finners into lionfish killers it could be a win-win situation? What about lionfish spine soup istead of shark fin sour? Definitely one thing that needs to be done is to take a good look at the practices of these large aquariums and prevent another invasion from happening. With all the things that threaten our waters the sad thing they have in common is that it is our fault and it is our responsibility to make every effort we can to correct and prevent them.
To learn more about the lionfish invasion and how you can help visit http://www.reef.org/lionfish