Bounty on lionfish could address two ills, says MLA

| 26/04/2012

lionfish_579955552.jpg(CNS): The North Side independent MLA is asking government to introduce a bounty on the invasive lionfish in order to avert an environmental disaster and encourage those tempted to take other marine life out of season to go after the legal catch instead. Ezzard Miller has filed a private member’s motion for the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly proposing a $5 bounty on each one of the pesky fish which is rapidly invading local reefs. Miller has suggested that government could use the funds from the environmental fund to pay for the scheme which would have a dual purpose.

“Everyone agrees that the fish is a significant problem and this proposal will only will help address the environmental issues it will encourage those who sometimes take conch and lobster out of season in order to make ends meet go for a legal catch instead,” he said

The first lionfish were spotted in Cayman waters early in 2008 and since then the growth in population has been alarming. The department of the environment has been encouraging divers to help remove the fish from the ocean with various projects and initiatives. Training courses and educational classes have been held and chefs across the islands are being encouraged to add the tasty white fish to their menus.

The fish which while being a voracious predator itself, has no natural predators in our region but divers have however, made efforts to introduce the local Nassau Grouper to the tasty if rather spiny fish to encourage it to help in the fight to keep the numbers down.

The lion fish presents a significant threat to native as it is capable of reproducing year-round and females can reproduce every four days. Given its relative resistant to parasites and fast growth it has advantages over native species with which it is now compete for food and space.

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  1. UDP Supporter says:

    I don't think a bounty should be introduced on this fish unless it goes to our Caymanian fishermen only. After the environmentalists took away the grouper from our Christian men it would be good for them to earn some extra money this way.  God put the fish in our waters for the benefit of local people and not foreigners.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lionfish were here long before 2008. I recall seeing one off Spotts public beach in 2002. I fully agree that there has to be some incentive offered to turn the tide on these green iguanas of the sea.

  3. Anonymus says:

    I've had some discussions with others about this same sort of idea. For it to work we have to accept its allways going to drain government coffers. The only way to justify it is as a jobs program, rather than on environmental grounds. And not by puting the poachers to work where they will be tempted to poach.

    Imagine a small arbatoir set up to process small animals such as lionfish (and iguanas and chickens) into human and animal food. (Filets for you and I, ground meal for your dog and cat.) The processing, distribution, etc., can be run as a jobs programme for a few people who need it. It gives them a work history and a chance to prove themselves and training in 'food preperation & hygiene'. Also perhaps in deliveries, packaging, marketing, retail, management, front-office, etc., depending on how the bussiness is structured. Hopefully there will be a constant turnover of staff moving into the private sector. Government will allways have to put money in to this bussiness, like w/ CAL, etc. But you're paying for training; the reduction in pest animals is a bonus. The sales just help to defray the costs.

    As for obtaining the 'raw' animals, you leave that open to anyone who wants to, regulated by the DoE, DoA, RCIPS, etc. This removes the problem of puting poachers in a poaching environment with poaching equipment and expecting them not to poach. As others below have pointed out the economics of that don't add up. However, if you're already hunting lionfish, or want to trap some iguanas or chickens off your land, you now have an extra incentive to do so because there is an easy disposal method where you get a few $ per pound or per animal for them.

    In the case of lionfish, etc., the goal is to get a local market. If the restaurants are already paying 'top dollar' for 'good' fish it might be that the govt. only gets the smaller or more mangled animals for turning in to cat food. So be it. The lionfish is off the reef either way.

    A lot of people wont eat these animals now. But enough will. And more will later. Especially if they can obtain the meat without the mess of cleaning it themselves. It could become a viable bussiness. Probably not a profit maker (economies of scale and reliability of raw material; its why most meat we eat is farmed not hunted) but its worth is the outcome – fewer invasive pests and fewer unemployed – not the bottom line. We just have to find a way make the outcome worth the costs. I don't think that a straight bounty is worth the cost. But a jobs program with environmental benefit? That I think could be worth it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    With all the great work done by Jason Washington, the DoE, the dozens of volunteer dive teams involved in the Lionfish round-ups over the past few years, and the growing network of local shops and restaurants willing to promote lionfish sales, Mr. Miller has plenty of real experts he could approach about his bounty idea – so why is he approaching the Legislative Assembly?

    If five bucks-a-head is going to sway "those tempted to take other marine life out of season" one way or the other… they are certainly not the sort of person who should be issued a spear in the first place.



  5. TennisAce says:

    Perhaps if the price of lionfish in the supermarkets were reduced people may be tempted to buy the darned thing, but at 5.00 per pound in the supermarkets, people will just go ahead and buy snapper or whatever other fish they usually buy.  In addition, perhaps the supermarkets could have tastings so that people know how these things taste and demonstrations of how to cook them. 

    I have bought and cooked the lionfish and it is quite tasty.  I have made escoveitched with it, as well as brown stew with ochoroes and steam it as well with bammy.  It is very succulent and quite tasty.  However, I had to ask the people at the supermarket to take out the fin bones and stuff for me, but if it was cheaper, I think more people would buy it and eat it and people would make a better living from it. 

  6. Kung Fu Iguana says:

    The bounty will only be payable to residents who have promised never to listen to Rooster or shop at Hurleys.

  7. GR says:

    While the idea sounds good, the economics don't work out.  If order to catch lionfish you need scuba (say $1,000 for gear, including a computer), dive tanks ($6 a fill for nitrox) and a boat to get to sites.  Yes, you can get gear cheaper but you still need a fair amount of money to get setup.  Then scuba diving is a relatively time intensive sport once you take into account the time taken to get to the dive site, an hour's dive, an hour's surface interval and an hour's dive, time to get back to the dock, etc.  A few friends and I went out for the last lionfish cull and  if we got the bounty for the fish & sold the meat to a restaurant, we would have made about $20 per person (taking into account tank fills & gas for the boat but not taking into account the cost depreciation of our boat and gear) and it all took 4 hours.

    Now, to illegally take conch takes a mask and fins …

    If the bounty made sense I'd support it but I don't believe it does and don't think it's the way to go in trying to eradicate the problem

  8. Anonymous says:

    If Cayman gave just a penny for every fish caught, we would not have enough money to pay the bounty!  Eradication by man is not possible since this species thrives at depths way beyond recreational dive tables.  Each breeding female can produce up to 30,000 eggs a month that drift with the currents.  So if hypothetically we did somehow eradicate all of the fish in the Cayman Islands, we would only be replenished with new fry from our regional neighbours.  The best we can ever hope for is to slow down the pace of destruction in the first 100 feet to prolong our dive offering. 

  9. Shore Diver says:

    A bounty isn't the way to go.  The government is having trouble with their expenditures already (or should I say constantly).  The best solution at present is education of everyone who is affected, WHICH IS ALL OF US.  We will all suffer if the lionfish continues unabated and systematicaly destroys our reef fishes through predation.  If no action is taken the reefs will suffer, divers will look for other places and the Cayman Islands will find fewer dollars coming in.  If everyone does what they can to reduce lionfish numbers it will definitely help our reefs. Although the problem will never be completely solved… at least not with our present technology… perhaps the lionfish numbers can be kept in check and the reef life won't disappear.  Getting more people involved in reducing lionfish population is all we can do at present.  A bounty would be a never-ending drain on the budget.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A bounty on lionfish will not solve the problem… it will probably get more people in the water spearing which means more marine life will be taken illegally. To think that people tempted to take lobsters/conch/groupers illegally will change their mind just for a bounty is wrong. People that want lobsters will take them. Making a bounty will cause more people to get out there and hunt lionfish for the money instead of the environmental good. Those aren't the people you want to give a spear!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    The controls are now in place and having worked with lion fish all over the world it is looking good already. The larger fish are already finding themselves to slow to feed and hang out looking glum on shallow sites. Restaurants are using them, rodeo round ups are in place so why would you need to pay.
    Two different issues between controlling lion fish and stealing lobsters. That’s illegal and if that is being ignored should be dealt with.

    And to suggest divers are showing grouper how to eat these is quite frankly stupid. Grouper and most fish are not fast enough to catch a healthy lion fish. Fact.

    So carry on cayman. The battle is fun and being won. Bear in mind you will probably never eradicate.
    There is a new study into an endo parasite about to be started in Florida with tests from cayman Lon fish.

    • Anonymous says:

      This endoparasite idea's freaking me out.  Does this mean coming up with some sort of parasite that'll get into the Lionfish to do some harm to them in order to help curb it's population?  What about other normal fish being curbed too?  When you say that tests in Florida are being done on Cayman's Lionfish, do you mean that they'll be bringing that parasite back here to our waters, if in case this study proves effective?  Are the Cayman Islands going to be guinea pigs once again as with the male mosquito release that we didn't know anything about until it was already done?  Could you pls explain this endoparasite further?  And, does the Cayman Islands Government know about this study and its ramifications?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Lets make the Chinese company that the govt. is giving the dock away to pay for all lion fish caught.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I suggest a pilot project should be started to catch and process these fish into salted fish. There is a huge market for satled fish in the Caribbean. Go for it!

  14. sounds good to me says:

    hurray Ezzard..just like the agoti of years gone by

    • Anonymous says:

      Agouti are live and well, particularly in NS where they are postiively thriving.

  15. Anonymus says:

    Sounds great. We need another CAL/Turtle Farm to constantly drain government's coffers. Or, we could invest the Environment money in something 'permanent', like buying land, say Barkers or the Central Mangrove Wetland or even some more 'heritage' beaches.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thats it, spend more government money on schemes better suitedto the private sector. Instead of using the environmental fund for 'bounties' why not encourage local restaurants to include lionfish on their menus and set a fixed, mandatory price (say $3) for its purchase. That way the government could use its precious funds and budgets to focus on employing more Marine Park Enforcement Officers to protect our beautiful waters from those who damage them far more than the dasterdly lionfish. Or is there another reason why they don't want vigorous enforcement, vested interest maybe? Surely not.


  17. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent idea……


  18. Anonymous says:

    good idea but I just hope other caribbean islands won't bring theirs over here for the $5 a piece and pass them off as being pulled out of cayman's waters.