Can an IAS officer join the NSG

Lionfish Invasion in the Caribbean - Mitigating the threats posed by invasive alien species to the island of the Caribbean

Lionfish are a species endemic to the Indo-Pacific region. However, in the 1990s, due to human introduction, lionfish made their way into the tropical western Atlantic and spread along the east coast of the United States. Since then, lionfish have immigrated across the Caribbean Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, threatening biodiversity and the local economy. In 2009, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago responded to this threat with the implementation of a regional initiative titled "Invasive Alien Species Threat Mitigation (IAS) in the Caribbean Islands (MTIASIC)". opens in a new window Read press release opens the PDF file.

Remove lionfish. © Bahamas Department of Marine Resources

The Bahamas have taken the lead to combat lionfish invasion by creating a Lionfish Task Force to document, collect, and remove lionfish from Bahamian waters. The task force includes representatives from government agencies and local NGOs. Preliminary results from a pilot project to remove lionfish in the Bahamas suggest that partnerships between the public and private sectors can effectively manage invasive species, which has significant benefits for biodiversity and the local economy.

Frederick Arnett II, Assistant Fisheries Officer for the Department of Marine Resources, played an important role in the initiative, helping with lionfish awareness, control and outreach initiatives. We asked Mr. Arnett II a few questions about the fight against lionfish in the Bahamas.

What are the main issues and implications related to the lionfish invasion of the Caribbean?

In the Caribbean, lionfish pose a significant threat to biodiversity and the local economy, particularly the fishing and tourism sectors, and most people tend to paint a bleak picture of the effects of the lionfish invasion in the Caribbean. However, the uprising of this crafty intruder has sparked action, communication, collaboration, sharing and proactive thinking among Caribbean neighbors. The Caribbean countries have come together to share experiences, techniques and advice. Their governments have been tasked with drafting and reforming laws when there are loopholes. The communities have also been encouraged to act and participate in the management effort.

What strategies are you implementing to deal with the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean?

The following strategies are being implemented across the Caribbean to combat the invasion:

  • Outreach initiatives, including lionfishfish workshops, training on methods for safely capturing and responding to invasion, handling and culinary demonstrations, poster competitions, air transport notices and brief training programs;

    Lionfishfish culinary demonstration. © Bahamas Department of Marine Resources

  • Exchange of information and experiences via conferences and workshops
  • Support for lionfish tournaments and derbies;
  • Policy changes to encourage lionfish control efforts;
  • Research in the fields of lionfish ecology, biology and invasion;
  • Creation of markets for lionfish meat.

 

What are some of the challenges you face while trying to control lionfish in your area?

Some challenges the Caribbean continues to face include:

  • Limited manpower and training in the effective detection, handling and removal of lionfish;
  • General reluctance of locals to participate in efforts to control lionfish through regular consumption;
  • Creation, development and maintenance of local / regional markets for lionfish meat;
  • Lack of political will to act, ie amendment and drafting of new legislation if necessary;
  • Lack of sustainable funding to support ongoing removal efforts.

 

What are the potential long-term effects for the Caribbean if lionfish populations are not controlled?

Long-term effects on the Caribbean can lead to a significant loss of biodiversity in the region. This loss is expected to endanger the health of ecologically important ecosystems (e.g. coral reefs, mangrove systems, seagrasses, etc.) and the local economies that depend on them (e.g. fishing and tourism).