Controlling Lion Fish Invasion in the Caribbean

by Reef Check Dominican Republic

Reef Check Dominican Republic is pushing the “Comete un leon” ( Eat a Lion) campaign, which has been very popular among different social media outlets, educating more the Dominican Republic on this topic. i.e.


With the donations from Global Giving, Reef Check DR, has managed to arrange one of the top restaurants in the city VESUVIO ( to purchase lion fish, when available, from the Cooperative COOPRESCA. Thus, providing a better management practice within fishing zone areas, by economically benefiting fishing the invasive and destructive species in Dominican waters verses any other.


 Likewise, by having Vesuvio offering Lion Fish in its menu, individuals are rapidly taking a liking to it and learning about the issue from a mouth-to-mouth standpoint. Subsequently, many other restaurants in the city are doing the same.


The Cooperative COOPRESCA’s formation was part of Reef Check DRs main objectives during the earlier phases of the co management process of La Caleta Submarine National Park. By making COOPRESCA the main stakeholders of the El Carey Aquatic Center, conservation efforts are more likely to be respected given the sensibility it creates among the community members.


In addition, Reef Check DR still undertakes monthly Lion Fish control dives at the Submarine National Park, using volunteers and the equipment purchased by the funds provided through Global Giving.


Gastronomic Lion Fish Fair
Gastronomic Lion Fish Fair

The Controlling Lion Fish Initiative has been in place with funds for about 6 months now. Currently, we are seeking for further funds in order to continue our efforts. 

At La Caleta Nacional Submarine Park,  co-managed by Reef Check Dominican Republic as previously mentioned, a total of 145 Lion Fish in the last 6 months have been captured in this protected area (75 more Lion Fish since our last report).  In addition, RCDR volunteers and other Lion Fish hunting groups have been forming alliances to catch Lion Fish with our protocols around the Dominican Coast and relating with fishermen to secure demand once we start our Lion Fish Consumption Campaign this year. Reef Check DR continues to its regular monitoring activities in different areas of the country.


Lately, Reef Check Dominican Republic has been offering conferences on controlling and managing lion fish in different related locations of the country such as the national aquarium in the capital, a joint conference with peace core volunteers and local fishermen at Monte Cristi Dominican Republic, and a conference in Palmar de Ocoa with neighbors and local fishermen.


Furthermore, a Gastronomic Festival was celebrated at La Caleta Submarine National Park on March 18 2012 in conjunction with the well-known Dominican university Universidad Iberoamericana del Caribe (UNIBE) ( Students and Chefs worked together to bring about 4 creative recipes for participants to try while enjoying and observing the parks advancement.


In addition, Last month the well known gourmet magazine GASTROTECA ( finally published our first lionfish recipe focusing on a high end restaurant called Bamboo at Tortuga Bay Punta Cana which formally began our Lion Fish for Food campaign. With this we hope that more restaurants sign on this campaign.


All our publications and invitations for the Reef Check Dominican Republic Lion Fish initiative has been rigorously worked with Pagés BBDO advertising agency ( Such materials has been approved by Reef Check DR board members and marketing experts in order to guarantee maximum acceptance in the market.

GASTROTECA Magazine Article
GASTROTECA Magazine Article
Conference@ Palmar de Ocoa
Conference@ Palmar de Ocoa
Lion Fish
Lion Fish

At La Caleta Nacional Submarine Park, co-managed by Reef Check Dominican Republic, at least 69 Lion Fish in the last 3 months have been removed from this highly marine protected area. The Lion Fish were captured using Hawaiian slings (park permitted spear guns), heavy-duty underwater gloves, scissors and collection bags, purchased thanks to donations made through global giving. In addition, RCDR volunteers and members have been catching Lion Fish with protocols developed for this project, and used around the Dominican Coast and networking with fishermen to secure demand once we start our Lion Fish Consumption Campaign this year.


Currently, members of RCDR have supplied Lion Fish meat samples to well-known restaurants in the city of Santo Domingo and their chefs are working on distinctive recipes as a means to introduce Lion Fish into restaurant menus. Working closely with GASTROTECA ( gourmet magazine we are looking to finally publish our first lionfish article in February or March, which will formally begin our Lion Fish for Food campaign.


Further, Reef Check Dominican Republic has been working closely with Pagés BBDO advertising agency ( in developing a campaign for lion fish consumption in specific restaurants. Logo, table tents, and flyers have been created to identify the Lion Fish Consumption initiative. These logos have been approved by Reef Check DR board members and marketing experts in order to guarantee maximum acceptance in the market (logo picture)


The products developed with Pagés BBDO advertising agency will be placed in every restaurant that manages to successfully introduce the Lion Fish into their menus.

Since Reef Check Dominican Republic (RCDR) reached the global challenge goal in august, it has been enthusiastically working on a campaign to control the lion fish invasion in Dominican waters.

Enough funding was secured through Global Giving to purchase “park-certified” spear guns, heavy duty underwater gloves, scissors and collection bags, as well as the means to prepare a training for interested scuba divers that wanted to collaborate in this effort of controlling the growing lion fish population. A calendar of monthly control dives was scheduled for an entire year, in which 4-8 divers participate to look and fish for the invasive lion fish. For these dives, volunteer divers get free use of the park boat; free air filled tanks, and the use of park-certified spear guns and lionfish collection gear.

As an additional efforts, RCDR joined forces with the prestigious Dominican gourmet magazine GASTROTECA (, the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation (, and Pagés BBDO advertising agency (, among others, to organize a Lion Fish Gastronomical Festival involving well-known local chefs and restaurants during this coming December 2011. The objective of this food festival is to stimulate the consumption and promote the sustainable fishing of the lionfish, an invasive species that has become very detrimental to the coral reef ecosystem in the Caribbean. While the chefs and restaurants study the lionfish and its culinary potential, RCDR is working to secure the supply with local fishermen, opening the potential for extra income for local fishermen.

Furthermore, RCDR has undertaken a series of conferences about the lionfish and its damaging effects on the Dominican marine ecosystems. Recently, Dr. Rubén Torres offered a conference on this subject at the School for Hotel and Tourism Enterprises in the well-known Dominican university Universidad Iberoamericana del Caribe (UNIBE)( The lecture had the support of local fishermen and the attendance of many students who were interested in learning more about the lionfish and it origins in order to insert this fish into their yearly university wide gastronomical festival. Moreover, a delicious lionfish ceviche courtesy of RCDR and GASTROTECA was served at the conference, which ultimately convinced the audience of the great texture and delicious fresh taste of this invasive fish species.


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Organization Information

Reef Check Dominican Republic

Location: Santo Domingo, DN - Dominican Republic
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Karen Pannocchia
Santo Domingo, Distrito Federal Dominican Republic

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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