Lionfish threaten islands’ tourism, fishing

Lionfish Some time ago, there was a living Lionfish on display at Mongoose Junction.

A staffer at the Friends of the Park store, where the fish was kept, said it didn't survive very long despite a voracious appetite.  It died and is now in a jar on a shelf.  Would that hundreds more of the water-borne eating machines have the same fate.

Every day, swimmers and divers are on the lookout for Lionfish in waters around St. John, according to Karl Pytlik, who heads up local Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation (CORE) activities.  If a Lionfish is found, he says dozens of volunteers are prepared to don masks and slippers and try and catch the fish.

According to Pytlik, one Lionfish can eat as many as 20 other fish in a day.

The President of CORE recently called the lionfish "an eating and breeding machine."  Joseph Gulli told an audience at the University of the Virgin Islands a female can lay up to 20,000 eggs at a time, every four days, the St. John Source reported.  

Gulli warned that the appetite of the lionfish, combined with its ability to reproduce, threatens the territory's fishing, tourism and diving industries, which he valued at $400 to $500 million.  "The Lionfish are going to take all of this away."

The Friends store, as well as St. John Spice, has tools available for people to mark spots where they spy a lionfish.  If they make a call to CORE, volunteers can respond and try and catch it.

5 thoughts on “Lionfish threaten islands’ tourism, fishing”

  1. Why would a spot be marked and people return to capture it? If it is the real danger that it is portrayed as then why shouldn’t a swimmer/diver who finds one capture or kill it directly?

  2. Jim – There are many other fish that are mistakes for lionfish. They are in protected water so it is important to use the lionfish markers (a cork, yellow marking tape and a washer) and mark where the lionfish is spotted. Also, they are poisonous and can sting you. Karl and his team are quick to respond to the calls.

  3. As a diver, I have some knowledge of this issue. Catching/killing a lionfish isn’t easy. First, they usually hide under ledges. Secondly, they are poisonous and can sting you. I have seen divemasters try to shoot them with special spear-type guns to varying degrees of success. The lionfish can quickly move as the spear is shot. At Little Cayman, the divemasters catch the lionfish in nets and then feed them to fairly tame groupers in one area of Bloody Bay Wall, to teach the groupers to prey on them. In the Pacific, the Pacific grouper is the lionfish’s natural predator, but in the Atlantic and Caribbean they have no predators, which explains why they are spreading so rapidly.

  4. Would making a shelter for gropers then will help in eradicating the lionfish? It could be a start. It’s quite hard to think that these fishes could potentially kill the multimillion-industry if left neglected. Beaches are irreplaceable vacation destinations in their own, and we’ll really need to control if the balance goes unchecked, like the lionfish growing in numbers, in this case.

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