To kill or not to kill? That is my question.

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

4 replies
  1. Marc Kemper
    Marc Kemper says:

    I agree that something needs to be done to govern the way these big companies operate but now that the damage is done, how can we help? No there are not enough dive professionals to spear them but if we try to get some of the other fish to aquire a taste for them (sharks, barracudas, groupers, etc.), I think that nature will take its course. It probably would eventually but it doesn’t hurt to give a little push! Perhaps there can be a plus to all if local governments would allow the spearing of these invasive fish year round and in marine parks. Just my thoughts.

  2. Diane
    Diane says:

    One thing that has worked in the past was to offer a reward to people who fish the species. In Texas they have crow-hunting season for farmers and the like to prevent damage to crops and housing. I think at one time it was a nickel per crow. Whether that’s still in effect, I don’t know. But maybe offering incentives for local fisherman to take up fishing the Lionfish (I mean, they’re not exactly hard to catch) might reduce their population.
    I know the Bahamas has tried replacing Grouper with Lion, but the success isn’t very evident.

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