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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Regional Strategic workshop to erradicate and control Red Lion Fish and Devil Lionfish in the Mexican Caribbean and Golf of Mexico

Lion fish? Have you ever heard of them? Yeah, they are beautiful right? Well...they might be, but they are a MASSIVE problem in the Caribbean? Why?...cause they are not from here and are causing great ecological damage.

So what to do? This is what National and Regional authorities, marine park managers from Cozumel, Sian Ka'an, Xcalak, Chinchorro, Cozumel and Veracruz, researchers and NGOs such as GVI and Amigos de Sian Ka'an meet yesterday to decide.

The workshop was attended by Lad Akins, REEF expert on Lion Fish, who explained the biology, ecology, behavior and evolution of the invasion of this fish. Lionfish are natives in the south pacific, where you can see them in the reef feeding, resting and reproducing. Indeed, they are beautiful fish and this is where the problem lies - they have become the starts of many aquarists, who not always manage and dispose their fish the correct way. And this is how the problem started in the Caribbean. Lionfish from aquariums have ended up in the sea, finding a benign environment for them: plenty of food and nothing that feeds on them - what else could you ask for? Not even sharks or the biggest of the groupers feed on them and on the other hand up to 15 individual fishes have been found in lionfish stomach! They are also venomous and can be aggressive. They can lay anything up to 3000 eggs every 4 days, all year around, so you can imagine their capacity to their capacity to conquer new environments.
after analyzing the data provided by the marine parks and other reef researchers (such as GVI) it was concluded that the problem was too extended to control it, so the strategy was set to eradicate, and then control, the invasive species from the Caribbean.
Groups of experts and local users are going to be trained to catch these fish from the reefs, that will be studied and monitored. Parallel to this, a national strategy to minimize the impact from aquariums will be develop and a national campaign to explain the problem and the steps taken in order to reduce and control the invasion.
An important aspect that it was discussed was the need to deal with this problem from a regional perspective (Caribbean and Mesoamerican). A series of meetings will be set to bring to the table experts from different countries to discuss approaches and decide on common strategies to deal with this issue.
Meeting will be help this week with local reef users (fishermen, dive operators, tourism operators...) in order to explain this problem and make all groups realise that we are all needed if we want to control it.

For now we have only seen one lionfish in Pez Maya and none in Pta Gruesa, but we will keep our eyes open and when we find them report them to the authorities.
And for all of you who own fish tanks, please be responsible when disposing any organisms and find out the correct way to do it!