Control of Lionfish in the Mesoamerican Reef

Mar 20, 2013

Lionfish also hunted in Guatemala!

During the month of April, Guatemala will celebrate the Second 'Festival of the Sea' in Puerto Barrios, Izabal.

Many activities are being proposed for this popular event, including: a sand statues sculpture tournament and a wall painting tournament, music, aquatic activities, stands of information on: climate change, mangroves, fisheries, use of water, etc.

For the last day of the event, the fisheries authority and a fishing community of the Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge are organizing a lionfish rally.  They are planning on dividing the rally in two phases:

  • Catch of lionfish, and
  • Lionfish cooking demonstration

This shows that fishing communities from Guatemala have already identified the lionfish as a plague and want it out of their fishing ground, as this fish represents competition for them.

The initiative is also telling us that they are aware of the potential that the lionfish has as a food alternative, as long as it is handle it with the respective caution.

Do you think a rally is a good start for the Guatemalan fishermen?

Thanks for your support,

Tha MAR Fund Team

Dec 20, 2012

Simple techniques to estimate lionfish population

According to the Report Card 2012 for the Mesoamerican Reef of the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), there are two important and disturbing facts about lionfish:

  • Lionfish are larger and more abundant on invaded reefs than in their natural habitat, and
  • Lionfish are always in season 

At their own rythm and possibilities, Fisheries and Protected Areas Authorities within the MAR have taken management actions that can decrease the extent of the lionfish invasion.

Also, as mentioned in our previous update report, Eloy Sosa PhD, from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Chetumal, Mexico, has developed a protocol that includes two simple methodologies to estimate lionfish population.

Fishing tournaments

These have become a very successful activity and widely accepted among authorities, civil society and the general community. The distinct advantage of these tournaments is that achieve multiple objectives simultaneously. In particular, being open mode activity to the local community and even tourists, fishing tournaments can be exploited for the purpose of environmental education and awareness, also capturing intense concentrated in an area bounded by what cause a real decline in lionfish abundance locally, at least for a while.

Depletion experiments: short-term successive captures

This method involves removal capture experiments or applied successively in a short period of time, with two to five successive occasions applied capture a set of stations or sub-areas within a selected target area in advance. In this case it is particularly critical that the experiment is short-term, that the whole series of successive catches check within five to seven days. This section considers a week: seven days, maximum duration of the experiment and a number of two to five times or successive revisions-with catching fish.

We will be happy to share with you the results of these two techniques as soon as any of them is being implemented in the MAR region. 

Once again, we would like to thank you for your constant support to face one of the main threats the measoamerican reef has these days.

Sep 10, 2012

Synergies to decrease the lionfish population

Even with certified lionfish hunters in Honduras, and volunteers and fishers in Belice and Mexico, the lionfish continues to spread its invasion in the Mesoamerican Reef.

Hunting tournaments or 'derbies' have been organized in several areas of the MAR to eliminate as much of lionfish population as possible.

Eloy Sosa, a high standing professor from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Chetumal, Mexico, is working on a methodology to estimate lionfish density taking advantage of these derbies.  He is designing a methodology, also to estimate density but to be implemented by fishers, dive guides, NGOs and/or more volunteers.

The Healthy Reefs Initiative has also identified and named the lionfish one of the main threats to the MAR region, along with climate change, overfishing and others. 

We have got to keep supporting all these efforts, we cannot let this exotic animal to destroy our beautiful reef!

Please, let's help all these organizations and initiatives accomplish their goals to control lionfish!

Jun 11, 2012

New lionfish protocol

After evaluating the current process for obtaining the license to hunt lionfish, staff rom the Roatan Marine Park (RMP), Honduras, has identified the need for better control over the sport to reduce the amount of damage to the sorrounding environment and spear holders alike.

The RMP offers now a recognized license to spearfish lionfish that is valid for two years.  For this, the interested person must sign a Memorandum of Understanding o fulfil the Honduran law, will learn spearing techniques and lionfish history.

Snorkelers can get licenses and will have to sign all agreements stated by the Fisheries Administration (DIGEPESCA, Spanish acronym).  They will be issued a different format of license and if they wish upgrade to a diving one they will have to go through the bouyancy check.

Vacationers will have to do the same as everyone else but when tehy return their spear they will receive a $10 rebate and the spear will be recycled into the local fisherman education program.

If the person has its own spear, the cost of the license will be of $20, if not, it will be of $40.

The license is property of the RMP and is issued on behalf of DIGEPESCA.  To renew the license, an accuracy workshop will be necessary.

Please keep helping us to train more people on the lionsih hunting the right way!

Mar 12, 2012

Lionfish hunting season is open!

Hawaiian sling technique to capture lionfish
Hawaiian sling technique to capture lionfish

The bad news is that lionfish population growth is not stopping.  The good news is that NGOs and authorities from Marine Protected Areas of the MAR region are working hard to prepare coastal communities and to properly certify people to capture lionfish.

Ideas such as “we need to be the main predator,” “feed them to native fish” or “bring them back to eat for dinner” are very popular these days.  To do so, people must be aware of the skills that catching this fish requires.

In Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras, the Roatan Marine Park (RMP) and the Utila Center for Marine Ecology (UCME) have move forward with their lionfish workshops, and have started with the next step: training workshops to teach capture methods.

The most common methods of capture are the net and stick, which is recommended for juveniles, and the pole spear or Hawaiian sling.  This method, if done properly, is quick and safe.  The spear can be strapped to the diving oxygen tank.  

There are five important rules that must be considered when spearing, and that NGOs and authorities are making clear to certified lionfish hunters:

  1. Safety!  The Hawaiian sling is a weapon.
  2. Brief people before the hunting dive (i.e. spearing will be occurring in the near vicinity)
  3. Secure safe shots before shooting:
    1. Clear 3 meters circle around you
    2. Make sure all people are behind you
  4. Consider the reef around you (i.e. don’t hit anything, especially coral and even sponges)
  5. Never point the pole spear at anyone.
Fisherman from Roatan enjoying his lionfish catch
Fisherman from Roatan enjoying his lionfish catch

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Project Leader

Maria Jose Gonzalez

Executive Director
Guatemala, Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Control of Lionfish in the Mesoamerican Reef