Invasion of lionfish can be controlled, expert
Lionfish are on the Island for good, according to Chris Flook of the Bermuda Aquarium - but their population can be controlled.
Addressing the Hamilton Rotary Club this afternoon, Mr Flook, the Aquarium’s head collector, said that measures intended to reduce the invasive fish’s local population have helped keep the species from overtaking the reefs, as they have in the Bahamas.
“We will always have lionfish on our reefs, but unlike some areas, we will still have other species as well,” he said.
Lionfish, which are native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, were introduced to the Atlantic in 1992 when five fish were accidentally released in Florida.
Since then, the fish have appeared throughout the Caribbean, up the East coast of the US as far as Chesapeake Bay. The species has no natural predators, reproduces quickly and native fish do not consider it a threat.
Since the first lion fish was spotted in Bermuda in 2000, Mr Flook said Government was quick to take action, launching a culling programme and encouraging fishermen to target them.
Mr Flook said recently, Government amended lobster trap regulations to allow lobster fishermen to sell any lionfish caught in the traps, but fisherman are still reluctant to catch the animals because they have a reputation as being poisonous.
However, Mr Flook said the poison is located only in its spines and said the venom is rendered harmless by freezing or cooking.
Saying he has been stung several times, he compared the pain to a bee sting, saying: “It improves your reflexes and teaches you a few new swear words, but that’s it.”
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