Earth Day: Saving our Reefs from invasive Lionfish
I love to SCUBA dive and learn about our seas. When I went to Bonaire for the first time in Nov 2016, I learned about the Lionfish issues and tasted my first tasty meal made from this invasive species. At VIP diving, they informed me about their Lionfish Hunting Specialty course that I could come back and take.
We are a group dedicated to preserving our oceans’ reefs and native fish populations, which are threatened in the western Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico by the invasive lionfish. We formed this non-profit to share information and resources relating to the infestation of this invasive species.
Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining these fragile ecosystems in the global community, and to fund efforts to mitigate the devastating effects of this invasive species.
Lionfish University recently was invited by private donors from the Mill Reef Club on Antigua to make an exploratory trip to assess the state of the marine ecosystem of the island, due to concern about declining health of their reefs. A team of five Lionfish University volunteers headed by Dr. Steve Gittings, chief scientist of the NOAA Marine Sanctuary System, completed a survey of the reefs focused on damage due to the lionfish invasion. A general stakeholders’ meeting was held to gauge the level of knowledge and possible participation on the part of fishermen, artisans, chefs, restaurants, the Fisheries Department and others. Dr. Gittings will be preparing a report of the findings and suggested control methods. If a return visit is requested the Lionfish University group may possibly teach islanders to put on a derby/festival as well as workshops in trap building, jewelry making and culling techniques, among others. The team was interviewed by a local TV station, radio station and newspaper, and did a presentation to a local community group to raise awareness about the lionfish invasion, and steps that can be taken to help restore reef health. Every individual’s effort makes a difference!
Visit St. Lucia and learn about Lionfish
At the Anse Chastanet Resort, they have a Lionfish aquarium on property and educate divers and non-divers alike and every Tuesday there is a presentation featuring the lionfish aquarium.They partner with the St. Lucia dive association (ANBAGLO) to participate in lionfish derbies. Scuba St. Lucia won the last derby. 1st place for the most lionfish caught (230LBS in 4 hours), 1st place for the largest lionfish caught and 2nd place for the smallest lionfish caught. After the derbies we put on a cooking and educational seminar in the local town of Soufriere, St. Lucia, the locals LOVE to eat the meat.At the Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain Resorts, lionfish is on the menu and there is a Gourmet Lionfish Dinner offered every Friday night. “Eat Them To Beat Them” is our Executive Chef’s Degustation menu with paired new world wines showcasing the quality and taste of this very unique fish. Whether served as sashimi, ceviche, simply grilled or stewed creole style, lionfish is always delicious.
For Earth Day 2019, Scuba St. Lucia will host a dive against debris and a lionfish culling day to help promote conservation of our delicate reef eco-system. Scuba St. Lucia Team members actively cull lionfish when not busy accommodating our guests. We remove at least a few hundred pounds monthly. As well we monitor for increasing or decreasing numbers of lionfish.
Save the Planet, Eat Lionfish and use the “Cook Lionfish” Cook book
Why Cook Lion fish?
Lion fish are native to the Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Unfortunately, they have found their way into the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Experts believe that the cause of the lion fish invasion is the dumping of unwanted lion fish from aquariums into the Atlantic for over 2 decades. Lion fish have no natural predators in these waters and are ferocious predators themselves, like vacuum cleaners that suck the life out of the ocean. The invasive lion fish are a very real threat to our coral reefs and ecosystems. They breed rapidly, releasing 15-20,000 eggs every 4 days and even the larvae have few predators! They eat juvenile fish and cleaners such as shrimp, that keep reef fish free from parasites. They are feeding on our key species such as juvenile parrot fish, algae and coral fight for photosynthesis. The parrot fish help keep the coral alive by feeding on the bad algae. If the algae smother the reef, the coral will die and there is no chance of recovery. It is estimated that marine plants produce between 70-80% of the oxygen that we need in order to survive. Without coral reefs, life as we know it cannot exist. The “eat em to beat em” campaign was launched by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2010 to encourage a seafood market as a means of mitigating the species’ impact on reef communities.
In 2003, Polly Alford founded a conservation diving organization in Belize. She encountered her first lion fish in 2009 and was subsequently shocked by the rapid invasion. Her organization introduced a project to remove them, collect data and create local and national awareness.
In 2016 Polly decided to enroll her twin sister, Claire (a chef in the UK) in a project to combine their skills and write a lion fish cookbook. The objective was to write easy to follow recipes using lion fish, to create tasty dishes for home cooking.
The recipes in this book demonstrate the versatility of this fish and the good news is that lion fish is not only delicious but also high in omega 3. We wrote this book to encourage you to cook one of the most sustainable foods available whilst helping to reduce this potentially catastrophic environmental problem. Buy the book on Amazon: “Cook Lionfish” Cook book
Do you want to cull Lionfish?
Texas Lionfish Control Unit is ready to help you help the planet!
Want to learn more about Lionfish Derbies?
Why are Derbies important?
Although invasive lionfish are widely dispersed throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, a large portion of the general public still does not know about the problem. In addition, there are many myths and much misinformation regarding the biology and ecology of lionfish. Lionfish derbies serve to educate participants and the public and raise awareness of the problem. Significant local, national, and international media coverage of derby events has helped facilitate education to those not geographically connected to the invaded range.
Since 2006, REEF has been working in close partnership with government agencies and partners throughout the region to help develop lionfish response plans, train resource managers and dive operators in effective collecting and handling techniques and conduct cutting edge research to help address the invasion. To aid in this effort, REEF currently enlists interested divers and snorkelers to join organized lionfish research and removal projects and encourages public participation in helping address the invasion.
Join a Lionfish Eco-Tour
At Coast Watch Alliance, they are bringing awareness to and actively combating invasive lionfish through community outreach and awareness, organized and systematic lionfish harvesting, and commercial market and supply infrastructure development for lionfish foodstuffs and processed products.
What if you get Stung? Information from DAN – Divers Action Network
If you are stung, remain calm. Notify the dive leader and your buddy. The priority is to safely end your dive, returning to the surface following a normal ascent rate. Do not skip any decompression obligation. Click here for first aid providers steps.
Want to build your own Traps? NOAA can help
Join esteemed panelists to discuss the latest invasive lionfish issues, including innovations driving future directions for the dive industry, fishing communities and markets. Brief presentations by panelists will be followed by an open question and answer session and discussion. Discussions will focus on how to continue to engage divers and the public in participating in removal efforts, derbies and what information managers and scientist can provide to help improve these efforts.
Brian Asher; Coast Watch Alliance; Lionfish Northern Gulf of Mexico and LRAD
Alli Candelmo, PhD; Reef Environmental Education Foundation; Derbies and Research
Alex Fogg; Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners; Emerald Cost Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, Commercial Lionfish Fishing
Stacy Frank; Lionfish University; Summary from Field Reporters, Outreach
Steve Gittings, PhD; NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries; Lionfish FADs and Traps
Stephanie Green, PhD; University of Alberta, Lionfish Research: Learn more about The Green Lab
Bob Harris; DEMA Legislative Consultant; Messer Caparello, PA, Diver Involvement
Jay Maly; Scuba St. Lucia; Ecotourism, St. Lucia Spearing and Trapping Efforts
Georgi Merlusca; Scuba St. Lucia; Ecotourism, St. Lucia Spearing and Trapping Efforts
Learn more in this article from Dive Training by Grant Currin: US VS. THEM: AN UPDATE ON CONTROLLING INVASIVE LIONFISH IN THE CARIBBEAN