The time is now to fight the dangerous Lionfish
Dire warnings emerge from recent workshop
By Derek deChabert
Plans are being formulated to rid local waters of Lionfish which are wreaking havoc on the local fish population.
Jim Gleason, executive director of the Ocean Support Foundation, along with a team that will be selected in coming weeks, will form the Bermuda Lionfish Taskforce which will attempt to combat its emergence in Bermuda.
In recent years the population of the species has risen drastically, with local divers and lobster fishermen confirming that large schools are being found in shallow waters where fish nurseries are located.
They can also be found up to 200 feet below sea level and along reefs, something that could prove to be a disaster to the Island if action isnt taken.
Mr Gleason, who was on hand at a recently completed workshop on Lionfish at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, is anxious to get the project underway in an effort to stop the pest from causing any further destruction.
A Bermuda Lionfish Taskforce is being put in place to begin drafting the plan and every participant of the workshop has pledged their continued support and input into the process, said Mr Gleason.
The information we are getting regarding this year versus last years catches and spearings, indicates there is a definite increase both by lobster fishermen and the number of lionfish being speared, such as the reports from Triangle Diving, who indicate they are spearing a great deal more.
A female lionfish can lay up to two million eggs a year and have reproduction cycles of about every three to five days, so their population growth can be rapid.
Left unchecked, their invasion will seriously impact the local commercial fishing industry, tourism, and other sectors of the economy.
Although we dont know the exact population currently in the waters of Bermuda, we must start right now to devise and implement control measures or the battle will be surely lost.
The Ocean Support Foundation and its partner organisations hosted a two-day workshop earlier this week as well as an evening presentation.
The two-day workshop and evening lecture featured two of the top lionfish researchers in the Western Atlantic, Dr James Morris Jr of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).
The pair have led similar workshops in numerous jurisdictions across the Caribbean, Mexico, and Florida.
Attending the workshop were representatives from a coalition of government departments, science and environmental organisations, the Marine Resources Board, the Bermuda National Trust, the Tourism Commission, commercial fishermen, dive shop operators, divers, and other key stakeholders from across the Island.
The Lionfish invasion has been deemed one of the worst environmental disasters ever faced by the region, but Mr Morris and Mr Akins were guardedly optimistic that Bermuda may have a chance if action is taken now and act decisively.
They were impressed by the diverse group that attended the workshop and the consensus that was reached on the many facets of developing a control plan, Mr Gleason said.
We were successful in accomplishing these outcomes and they will become the framework for drafting Bermudas Lionfish Control Plan.
The public presentation covered the most up to date lionfish information from across the Atlantic and summarised the results of the two-day workshop.
Dr Morris chronicled the lionfish invasion in the Atlantic and Mr Akins spoke to how citizen volunteers are making an impact on the lionfish invasion.
The two-day workshop was designed to help Bermuda develop a long-range lionfish control programme.
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