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Be Aware-Invasion of Lionfish

Invasive Lionfish populations are mushrooming out of proportion and will continue growing until they cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. Once established, it is almost impossible to eradicate them. Our lackadaisical approach is in no way helping. A more positive proactive approach is required to tackle this major problem and lessen the impact on future generations. 
St. Kitts – Nevis, and to a larger extent the entire Caribbean, are faced with a major Lionfish problem, the consequences of which are that in the very near future there will be NO MORE DEMERSAL – REEF – POT FISH also FEWER PELAGIC SPECIES to be caught in the waters from Florida to South America!!! The invasive Lionfish are multiplying by the millions daily and preying on ALL the juvenile fishes seeking shelter among the reefs, or on the surface among floating Sargasso seaweed rafts, down to a depth of 1,000 feet. They devour all juvenile fish, shrimp, crabs and baby lobster depleting all the nurseries of juvenile fish and animals. It is estimated that ALL the reef fish (POT FISH & SNAPPERS) and some
Pelagic Species will be TOTALLY ERADICATED within the next two years!!! 
Depletion of reef fish would lead to the total devastation of the reef ecosystem as coral need fish to graze on the moss and algae to keep the reefs pristine and healthy. A VERY SERIOUS SITUATION that will affect livelihoods, food security, foreign exchange, tourism, the health of our coral reef, the economy and commerce. 
Lionfish are now found ranging from Massachusetts in the North, to Bermuda, Gulf of Mexico and throughout the entire Caribbean to Central and South America region. These Lionfishare actually native to the Indio- Pacific waters, but because of their ravenous nature and Ornate Beauty, were imported into America for home aquariums. 
In 1992 hurricane Andrew came ashore in the Miami area and during the storm a Marine Aquarium was destroyed causing approximately 6 – 8 Lionfish to escape into the Florida Biscayne Bay waters. Since that date, they have increased exponentially, by spawning continuously year round. Marine scientist research reveals that Lionfish have a unique reproductive system not found in other native species. Spawning year round, a female Lionfish lays between 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every three to four days for about 30 days, then in a few weeks starts the spawning cycle again. One female lion fish can produce well over 3 million offspring per year. Frightening!!! 
Researchers have documented that there was a boom of about 700% increase in Bahamian waters between 2004 and 2008. Lionfish increases rapidly in size, and can become sexually reproductive within their first year by which time they can grow to 8 inches in length and keep growing to more than 16 inches or more. With their fast growth rate, Lionfisheasily out-grow most native species. 
There was a single sighting on Montserrat about two years ago. There are now literally millions of them around the island. The local fish pot fishermen are literally catching dozens in each of their traps. 
When a Lionfish enters a trap, all other species stay out. After being warned about their venomous spines, most of the local fishers will not touch a Lionfish, and are actually dumping them back into the ocean alive where they continue to reproduce. The spines are dangerous, however, if they are handled with the proper glove and the necessary equipment while being cleaned and removed of the venomous spines, the fish can be 100% safe to handle and eat using your favourite recipe. 
NOTE: The Venom is within the external fins, and NOT the meat. Removal of the head allows easy removal of the skin which reveals a nice white flakey meat with a texture, flavour and taste similar to that of a grouper. You can scale them if so desired. Filleting or staking can also be done. As an introductory measure, Guadeloupian fishers started cleaning theLionfish and giving to their customers free. This resulted in favourable responses from the consumers. 
Medical Health Tips:
If you happen to get pricked by the Venomous Spines immediately check to see if the spine has broken off in your body. If so, remove it as quickly as possible, and proceed to soak the affected area in a mixture of Epsom Salts and Hot Water; as hot as you can bare it. This process will neutralize the venom and can take (depending on the severity) between 15 minutes to one hour of soaking time. 
Another remedy, in case you get pricked in your main body part, is putting an onion in boiling water, then cut it in half and place it on the affected area while hot. Another thing that can be used is an Aloe Vera branch, heated, then sliced open. Sprinkle with some salt and hold on the affected area while hot. 
If a Fisherman is wounded at sea while fishing, and does not have ready access to hot water, he can hold the affected part; say his hand, under the cooling exhaust water of the engine. Although not overly hot, it will reduce the symptoms until reaching shore. 
We must take action NOW to start addressing this invasion, and get accustomed to eating this new delicacy. 
We in the Caribbean are faced with a MAJOR PROBLEM and the Consequences are staring us in our faces; that SOON ALL the Reef Fishes  (POT FISH, OTHER DEMERSALS) and some Pelagic Species will be TOTALLY ERADICATED FROM OUR WATERS within the next two years!!! 
A VERY SERIOUS SITUATION not to be taken lightly. Let us be PROACTIVE not REACTIVE.
The Nevis Historical and Conservation Society learned that the Research Staff of the Statia National Marine Park have produced and implemented a Lion Fish Response Plan which has become the basis for several successful response plans in the Caribbean. 
The NHCS in collaboration with the staff of the Statia Marine Park Research Team will be conducting a workshop to learn from Statia’s Plan and how they have been able to reduce the destructive actions of the Lion Fish. The workshop will be held on October 22-25, 2012 and the target groups would be the general public, policy makers, and other stakeholders (such as dive shops, NGOs, and fishermen) on St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe. The project is targeting 20 stakeholder-participants who will be nominated by their respective organizations. 
Please contact the NHCS for more information
Compiled by:
Capt. John Howes
Capt. Arthur Anslyn
Nevis Historical and Conservation Society
Evelyn Henville
October 1, 2012

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