The Lionfish is a non-native species in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic. It is native to the Indian and Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea where it has natural predators.
As an invasive species, they are feeding on key species, they breed at an alarming rate, and they have no natural predators! This means potential disaster to the health of the reefs in Belize.
10 facts about the Lionfish in Belize!
1. The Lionfish has venomous spines. However, the Lionfish is not poisonous. And, there is a difference! Venom must be injected into the bloodstream to inflict harm, but it is harmless if eaten or drunk. Poison has to be absorbed or ingested to cause harm.
The venom of a Lionfish is found in the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins and it is not deadly to a healthy human being. However, if a fin pricks you, you will endure intense pain, swelling and in some cases blistering and if not treated properly, infection.
2. Of course, prevention is always better than cure! To avoid a sting, make sure you are properly trained to spear a Lionfish. It is also a good idea to take your PADI Peak performance buoyancy course before you Lionfish hunting dive.
If you do get stung, the best way to treat the sting is by putting the inflicted area in very hot water, as hot as you can bear! And, take an antihistamine and strong painkillers with anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen.
3. The fins are still venomous after the fish is dead!!! After the dive, do not leave the Lionfish bag in a place where someone could tread on it!!!! Be very careful when preparing the fish or remove the spines first. They have no scales, which makes them easier to filet.
4. Lionfish makes a delicious meal! The fins of the Lionfish are venomous. However, the meat is not poisonous. Lionfish is a delicious fish! Try Lionfish ceviche, Lionfish fingers, whole fried Lionfish, Lionfish fillet and Lionfish fishcakes.
5. The first Lionfish sighting in Northern Belize was in December 2008, sighted by a Dive Instructor on the Sundancer near the Turneffe Atolls. The first Lionfish sighting in Southern Belize was in November 2009, sighted by marine conservation company, ReefCI.
Check Scuba Dive operators in Belize
6. Exactly how badly are Lionfish affecting the underwater environment in the Caribbean, Western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico? Lionfish are a non-native, invasive species without natural predators. A single female can lay up to 2 million eggs, and they eat almost anything they can get their mouths around! and their stomachs can expand up to 30 times its normal volume.
They can consume around 30 juvenile fish in one minute! ReefCI found a Lionfish that measured 18 cm with a Blue chromis inside that measured 9 cm!!! That is like a human being eating a sheep in one bite!!! Scientists have proven that one Lionfish can reduce the number of species that it can consume by up to 80% in a 5-day period!!!
7. What does this all mean???
- Reefs will die
- Fish will die due to loss of habitat and the spread of disease
- Fisherman and their families and communities that rely on harvesting native fish, will lose their livelihoods and go hungry, especially in less developed countries like Belize!
- Tourism is the highest revenue earner in Belize, 25% of all income comes from tourism. Tourism relies heavily on the reefs and will suffer enormously.
- Populations of people that rely heavily on seafood as a source of protein will be affected.
8. What can we do? However bad the problem looks, we must not give up. Just like garbage, it is a huge problem and will continue to accumulate, but we should still clear it! Keep spearing them, removing them and eating them. Share and like all information on social network sites such as Facebook.
Ask for Lionfish in restaurants where you know there is a Lionfish problem in the area.
Book your next dive trip with an organization such as ReefCI and help them remove the Lionfish.
9. The biggest recorded Lionfish caught in Belize was speared by Polly Alford, Founder and Director of ReefCI and it was 44 cm and weighed 3.75lbs!
10. A Lionfish is like the ‘cockroach’ of the ocean!!! You can spear it multiple times, and it will not die!!! The best way to eliminate them is to use a three-pronged spear and a proper Lionfish bag such as the Safespear bag. Spear them and bag them, dead or alive! Then EAT them!!!!
Would you like to spear some lionfish too with ReefCi? Feel free to contact us.
Guest blog is written by Polly Alford (Founder of ReefCI) and 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.