Lionfish; A beautiful disaster!

Lionfish were introduced to aquarium holders in the western part of the world many many years ago. Sadly, the new and proud owners of these beautiful fish were not fully aware of the extreme appetite their newly purchased beauty from the pacific had. They turned out to be able to clean out an aquarium from all life in just a few days leaving the hobbyist no other choice then to get writ of that eating machine. Their natural beauty however turned out to become our worst nightmare; quite a few aquarium holders did not want to kill the beautiful Lionfish and released it in the Atlantic Ocean. That, together with a natural disaster called hurricane Andrew a little over 20 years ago now, made it happen that quite some Lionfish ended up finding each-other in the east-coast of Florida and they started reproducing. Nobody ever could and did imagine how reproductive these Lionfish really were without a natural predator controlling their numbers and how capable they turned out to be with invading the entire Atlantic Basin. This computer animation (scroll down a little) gives you a good insight on how fast that went.

There where most islands did not do anything to try to stop the Lionfish invasion and even when they found out that their reefs were about to be cleaned out from any and every life by these invasive Lionfish, the Bonaire National Marine Park was ready and had a plan of action ready to implement even before the first Lionfish was spotted. Of course did this plan need some changes and new implementations during the execution of it, but, sofar, it seems to be working out with controling the numbers of Lionfish at recreational depths. Hundreds of volunteers are frequently diving and during their dives they try to catch the Lionfish they come across. There is a facebook-group where hunters and spotters share the latest news on how to catch better and safer and where Lionfish was spotted. DCNA started a website simply meant to be able to post recent sightings and when caught by hunters that also that could be uploaded.

At GOOODive Bonaire the staff is very active with the removing of Lionfish. During each and every trip offered, staff will bring tools to remove Lionfish and divers are encouraged to play the role of spotters. In case the divers would like to do more than “just” spotting, there is a training program available to become a Lionfisher. During that training divers will learn how to safely remove Lionfish from the reef without any negative impact for that reef. After having successfully followed the program the newly “certified” Lionfisher-men and women are allowed to hunt Lionfish under direct supervision.

GOOODive Bonaire also offers their services to Lionfish research and sponsors trips where research on and the removing off goes hand in hand. These trips always go to Klein Bonaire, a little inhabited island not even a mile off shore from Bonaire and, as we speak, we are about to finish off the entire reef around the entire island for the third time! Quite an achievement if I may say so and we could not have done that without the help of many volunteer Lionfisher-men and women and without the help of the students and staff at CIEE Bonaire.

If you would like to join in as a spotter of Lionfish during our trips you can sign up and join in. It’s that simple to help out! If you would like to participate in the removing of lionfish just let me know when you will be coming to Bonaire. It would be my pleasure to train you and after completion to set up some nice trips. Our Dive Safari to the dive sites in the WSNP is a great adventurous and a rewarding trip. Lionfish is extremely good for eating. Here some recipes and there are many more to be found on the www.
Did you know that as a hunter you can keep your catch to take home?

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