You should hunt the invasive lionfish, because, (juvenile) reef fish need your help, and Coral reefs all over the world are in danger.
Using spears to hunt underwater was once frowned on by many localities and even illegal in many. Divers were on both side of the issue of hunting, and often heated debates would occur.
The invasion of the lionfish (in the Caribbean) has seen a shift in viewpoints.
Environmental groups once strongly oppose to the use of spears are now sponsoring derbies to kill as many Lionfishes as possible.
In the past, we have published some blogs on the topic of lionfish and the devastation they are doing to the reefs all over the world.
An article we published two years ago, 10 facts about the invasive Lionfish in Belize, gives a great overview of the topic. However, the situation is much worse than it was two years ago.
A quick reminder:
The Lionfish is an invasive species in the western hemisphere. It has no natural predators, and it is quickly becoming a plague threatening the coral reefs and ecosystems it invaded. The Lionfish eats juvenile reef fish, and it does not stop when it is full.
The Lionfish can eat up to 6% of its body weight, and their stomachs can expand over 30 times! Consider they are with many, and you can imagine the number of (juvenile) reef fish is sharply declining in certain parts of the world.
What happens when there are no more (Juvenile) reef fish?
When you take out all the reef fish from a healthy reef, whether it is because of the Lionfish or overfishing the reef will die, simple as that.
The fish keep the reef clean and healthy by eating the algue. When they are gone, the algue will take over and will bury the coral reef underneath a thick sheet of brown muck. When the reef dies, other fish will migrate, and local communities will lose an important food and income source.
Photo Credit: MyFWCmedia
We can only guess what happens next
People who live from these reefs will take desperate measures to feed their children and themselves. From here it is a small step to dynamite “fishing”, illegal poaching of wildlife and even illegal logging of forests.
The case of the Glass Goby is a clear example.
The Glass Goby, like most other gobies, are small and found on coral reefs across the Caribbean down to South America and up the Atlantic coast to Bermuda. They are the dominate species of Gobies along coral reef drop-offs.
The Caribbean has lost 59% of its coral between 1970 and 2011, but the Goby population remained stable. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Programme commonly called “the Red List” had the Glass Goby listed as “least concern”.
However, the last two years thing have changed, and the “Red List” now shows the Glass Goby as “Vulnerable”, skipping the “Near Threaten” category. Skipping an entire category on the red list in only two years is a shock. The new threat is the lionfish.
The report cited a chilling study, “An overall 65% decline in (lionfish) prey biomass was directly observed over a period of two years in the Bahamas.”
Lionfish can eat species up to 15cm, about seven inches, which is larger than the normal size of its mouth and stomach which will expand as needed. The Lionfish will eat 85% of the surrounding prey that will fit in its mouth in only five weeks. While many species such as grouper and snapper are only vulnerable to the lionfish until they get too big to eat, a full-size Goby is only 3 inches, just a snack for the lionfish.
Invasive species are not new
Invasive species on both land and in the waters are not new. The Zebra mussel in the US Great Lakes as well as rivers around it are taking over the domestic mussels and causing damage to power plants. The European green crab is found in the Americas and Australia and impacting shellfish, and many more.
However, the Lionfish is different.
In its home waters of the Asian Pacific region, they are commonly seen but not in large numbers. They do not sit on the top of the food chain, and they are seen as a threat by small species of reef fish. A female lionfish may lay over a million eggs a year, but few survive to reach breeding age. In the Caribbean and Atlantic, that is not the case. Adults are not threatened by anything, and even the young have a much higher survival rate.
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This article is published by The Scuba Page, the online magazine for Scuba Dive lovers around the world. The Scuba Page is part of RUSHKULT : the online booking platform for adventure sports. Visit the RUSHKULT platform to book your next Scuba Dive training, guided trip and accommodation.