Experts seek hundreds of volunteers even diving novices in Pacific lionfish fight
Efforts are continuing to help eradicate the lionfish from Bermuda waters.
But the invasive species is still posing environmental and economic problems as the population increases.
Researcher Corey Eddy will be speaking tomorrow at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI) on his team’s early findings on the population and its potential impact on the underwater ecosystems.
And he’ll again urge the public to reinforce efforts to hunt down the fish.
Mr Eddy said: “They eat incredibly rapidly, they breed within one year of life and one female can lay 30,000 eggs twice a week so that’s over two million eggs every year and they have no natural predators other than humans that can eat them and minimise that population.
“There’s some surprising results about the size of the population at depth and some of the things that we’re finding, what the lionfish are actually eating.
“We found an octopus inside a lionfish which is just surprising.”
The octopus found in the lionfish was between two and a half and three inches in size.
The species, native to the Indian and Pacific oceans, was first spotted in Bermuda in 1999.
Because they are not native to the Atlantic, regional fish do not see them as predators — meaning lionfish can reduce many fish populations and disrupt reef ecosystems.
Mr Eddy noted that some success had been enjoyed in the search for the fish but more help is needed.
“We’ve done very well with the divers and the fishermen and the environmentally minded people but we need to push with the general public.
“We have this programme where any Bermudian resident over 16 can sign up take our course to get a lionfish permit.
“It’s $20 but it’s free to renew and it’s similar to a spear fishing licence except with the lionfish permit you can hunt lionfish using scuba equipment right from shore and on the protected sites, so we’re general really trying to motivate people to get involved.
“Letting the public be aware of the story and share the story with their friends helps to push the subject through.
“It’s good for their friends and family because they get to eat delicious food and free food.
“Last year we added 300 (people) and so far this year we’ve added maybe 20 or 30 and we’re really trying to promote it now — to double or triple that.
“We’ve had parents coming in with their five-year-old kids so they can pick up a few things.
“In addition to the permit programme visitors to the Island can take a course at any of the dive shops, a PADI (the international Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course where they can get a temporary lionfish permit.
“Between September 1 (2013) and Christmas the lobster fishery brought in hundreds of lionfish, that was only till Christmas and the season lasted three months after that.
“Each year we’re more successful in getting lobster fishery to bring the fish to restaurants.”
Mr Eddy will hold seminars at BUEI throughout the summer and expects a sell-out for his lecture tomorrow.
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