Over fishing ‘works’ says marine expert

| 06/09/2012

spearedlionfish.jpg(CNS):  An expert from Bonaire in the southern Lesser Antilles visiting Cayman told local environmentalist that the efforts made in the island to cull lionfish were beginning to work and populations were falling. Giving a presentation about the work in the Dutch territory, Fernando Simal said that concerted and coordinated efforts across the island to enlist the help of visiting as well as local divers, the introduction of lionfish hunts and changes to local laws to allow the use of spearguns to cull the invasive species have all paid off.  Simal revealed the results of a comparative study with the neighbouring island of Curacao, where cull efforts had been slower to start and were significantly less than the commitment made in Bonaire. (Photo by Patrick Weir)

He said the findings were that the lionfish in Bonaire were smaller, weighed less and above all less density.

“As we all know, over-fishing works,” he said, as he pointed to the reduction in the population as a result of deliberate and targeted efforts. While over-fishing is normally seen as a problem for marine experts, the knowledge and evidence from the impact on native fish stocks from over-fishing in the Caribbean would suggest that a concerted effort to fish the invasive species could bring down the numbers of lionfish.

Simal said the fish was promoted in Bonaire as a tasty dish and was now fetching around $14 per kilo which, coupled with the licensing of spearguns for divers hunting the fish, has meant that the cull has worked. The marine expert stated that the population of the invasive fish was almost half that of its neighbouring island and the size of the fish was 33% smaller, which was also positive as smaller fish eat and compete less with indigenous species.

Looking at the situation in Cayman, the Department of Environment marine team said that they were also starting to see some positive effects from the culling efforts. Numbers in areas which are dived regularly are falling but the local experts raised concerns that 100 metres outside the mooring areas the fish were still dense and more efforts were needed to keep up the pressure on the fish.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I have been diving Cayman for years and speak as an educated "outsider" who only wants what is best for the reef.  What is best for the reef is what is best for the $cuba diver.  I tell you all this because there is very little reason for outsiders to come $pend money to dive and not see any fish.  Each year over the past 5 that I have visited Cayman to dive there are 50% LESS FISH.  

    Lionfish have no predators and they eat every little juvenile fish like pigs.  If you, the Cayman people, don't get it together and WIPE OUT this fish from your reef, you will no longer get any $cuba money on your island. 

    $imple as that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the laws were amended or suspended for a year or so as a trial to where anyone anywhere in these islands could use a hook stick and such without fear of prosecution the numbers of lionfish would even be more drastically reduced also, however it is not possible or feasible for every snorkeler who is resident here to do the training course at DOE and become licensed to have a spear or tool to cull lionfish.  Persons who snorkel the reefs that are not a part of the main dive and snorkel sites all around the islands would be able to help, with simple home made instruments however the risk of being caught without a license is too much of a risk.  Lets face it, this is not going to endanger the lobsters etc. as much as it will help keep lionfish under control.  Those who want to poach lobsters and turtles and conchs and whelks etc. are going to do so regardless of the laws.  Thankfully the majority of residents are not poachers and should be encouraged to help in the lionfish battle with or without a license from DOE and without fear of prosecution.  There are many who want to help and have the know how and should have the DOE blessings to help.  Can we start tomorrow?  

    • Anonymous says:

      Get off your lazy ass and do the course instead of making up spurius claims.

    • Anonymous says:

      The poster is not making a spurious claim.  Many locals have sticks with simple hooks on the end which they could use to assist.  But any local caught using such a simple hook stick if caught, is prosecuted as if they wereusing an unlicensed speargun.  I've seen it myself and read it in black and white on the summonses received by a man who was caught doing just this.  He received more than one summons and was prosecuted not only for having a speargun (which he didn't he had a simple stick with a hook on the end) and for the single fish that he caught and killed.  When I looked at his hook stick I was amazed that such a simple home-made tool could be considered similar or equal to a speargun, let alone that he could be prosecuted for using it.

      So locals who live and fish the waters all around the island could assist if only it was legal for them to use hook sticks.  I agree with the poster.  Hook sticks should be legalised generally, but if not, at leat allow them to be used for lionfish culling.

  3. Truth Hurts says:

    Great to see the results of the hard work of the lowly-paid dive professionals and wider public in attacking this problem although I can imagine that only the reefs that are dived regularly are really seeing population declines. That leaves large parts of the islands undived reefs presumably teeming with the lionfish unchecked.

    What concerns me is that there seems little recognition or support from Government to one of our biggest threats to the quality of our reefs (and therefore our dive sites and tourism). The government allocated what, $30k towards the problem, yet we spend millions elsewhere on pet projects with little or no results to show for it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fish don't vote.  So their votes cannot be bought.  So why spend money on them?

  4. peter milburn says:

    If only the politicians would work together like we do the islands would be so much better off.Any thoughts Mr.Premier?

  5. Anonymous says:

    The work that the divers anddive companies are doing to address this problem is excellent.  The Fosters food Fair programme is great – they subsidise the cost of the dive boats and take the lion fish caught in exchange- which they then sell in the store.  They u  the money they make from selling plastic bags to pay for this.  If Kirks and Hurleys would follow suit we could really become the country that is doing the most to tackle this massive problem