Would you spear this pretty critter?
In the Indo Pacific, the lionfish is an instantly recognisable, photogenic fish with petal-like fins moving in slow suspension, often with a wreck in backdrop. In the US/Carib, it is a serious pest that can decimate the local fish population by up to 80% in a short time. In the Indo Pacific, other fish have learned to avoid them and they also have natural predators, particularly large groupers. In the Atlantic Ocean, native fish have never seen them before and have no recognition of danger.
I had known that lionfish was a pest in the US/Carib, but never appreciated the ....well…vitriol…. associated with the lionfish in that part of the world.
I tamper my visceral reaction to conservation diving involving the killing of beautiful things by analogising it with the harvesting of crown of thorns. A necessary culling taken very seriously in that part of the world. There is an informative video on Youtube on what volunteers can do with reef.org on the lionfish invasion – netting, dissection, tagging. Reef.org's website description of lionfish derbies:
"A lionfish derby is a team competition to collect as many lionfish as possible. Teams have between dawn-to-dusk and can use a variety of capture methods while either SCUBA diving, free diving, or snorkeling. Prizes will be awarded to the teams with the most, biggest, and smallest lionfish caught.
Derbies are important venues for invasive species outreach and education. Teams and spectators can learn how to properly handle venemous lionfish and why they are detrimental to ocean ecosystems, as well as taste several delicious recipes. They also draw media attention to the Atlantic lionfish invasion and help promote the possible development of a commercial lionfish market. These benefits all supplement the main goal of removing large numbers of lionfish from our delicate reefs."
Get the T-shirt, get the video, check out the Acuspear…..At DEMA, there is a healthy trade going in accessorising lionfish defenders:
There are various ways to cull the lionfish. Spearing is a common way. The Acuspear stand at DEMA does a demo: bow and arrow principle.
See it to believe it. My Venezuelan dive buddy, Fernando, shares these photos of volunteers in action capturing lionfish with something looking similar to an Acuspear.
Apres dive, what do you do with the lionfish? The reef.org website mentions delicious recipes. Fernando shares some with us:
Before you come to any judgement of right or wrong, listen to Fernando's heartfelt message:
"On the coast of Venezuela are making a very strong damage to the coral eco system, I helped the University of Carabobo in the environmental impact study reef systems, I can contact these researchers to help us to spread the [news of] problem we have with this little fish that is mutated in up to 50 cm size or as they hunt in groups of up to 15 individuals and lives from 1 meter to 300 meters deep, the fish also has no natural predator in all this area and its great voracity makes this at the top of the food chain. The major impact on reefs is creating is invaluable and is not taking appropriate measures to combat this problem. I have many pictures so I'm going to send you to put the best in your article......I'd like to report this problem we have in Venezuela and throughout the Caribbean."
Fernando is a fabulous photographer too. Thank you Fernando for your photos.