Bonaire Lionfish Hunters

As we have written before, lionfish, originally from the Pacific, have been multiplying rapidly throughout the Caribbean and the Atlantic since the first fish was spotted off the coast of Florida in the early 1990s. As the lionfish population has continued to grow in the Caribbean, so have innovative projects to stop the invasive fish from causing harm to reefs and important fish populations. There have been several Lionfish Derby events in several Florida cities and in the Bahamas, as well as numerous similar tournaments throughout the Caribbean, awarding prizes to the people who catch the most fish.

On another front, a technique I found interesting is the process of marking the location of lionfish when spotted in the water. Apparently, this technique is quite helpful, as Science for Citizens reports. They state, “Volunteer divers on the Dutch island of Bonaire are helping Bonaire National Marine Park eliminate invasive lionfish from its coral reefs by marking the locations where the fish are found. A diver who spots a lionfish is instructed to attach a small flag, provided by the park, to a rock near the fish.”

According to diver/journalist Lisa Gardner, when she swam along the reefs where dozens of flags had been placed by other divers, each one “had one or more lionfish hovering nearby. It turns out that lionfish don’t stray far from their particular nook of reef. They stay near the markers.” This has helped Bonaire keep the lionfish population down.

Another interesting point is that, although spearfishing is illegal to hunt marine life in the waters surrounding Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, in Bonaire, the exception has been made for lionfish (I am not sure about the situation on the other two islands).

Gardner writes:

“On October 26, 2009 the first lionfish was spotted in the shallow waters off the coast of Bonaire. Now, a year and a half later, they are common. In November 2010, for the first time in 40 years, the use of spear guns was allowed on Bonaire’s reefs, specifically to kill lionfish. One hundred ELF spears were brought to the island, the weapon of choice when it comes to lionfish elimination. A group of spear-toting volunteers, known informally as ‘eliminators,’ look to an online list of lionfish sightings reported and marked by scuba divers with flags to know where to hunt the fish. The ‘eliminators’ remove the markers from the reef when they remove the lionfish one by one.

More people who wish to wield a spear are getting involved. Dive instructor and lionfish eliminator Annie Olszewski at Bonaire Dive and Adventure trains divers to help with lionfish elimination. [. . .] Bonaire’s lionfish eliminators are getting to know each other while using social media to hunt this invasive species. Their Facebook group, “Bonaire Lionfish Hunters,” includes posts about the one that got away, the areas of the reef they covered, and interesting new studies about lionfish biology and ecology. Annie tells me that she recently saw a lionfish when she was diving without her spear. She posted the location on Facebook and, shortly, another eliminator who saw her post caught the fish.”

For more information, see http://scienceforcitizens.net/blog/2011/08/divers-help-quell-the-roar-of-invasive-lionfish/

Photo from http://www.zonnigbonaire.nl/2009/10/28/lionfish-gevangen-bij-bonaire/

3 thoughts on “Bonaire Lionfish Hunters

  1. I love that photo… Just so you know, it was taken by Todd Gardner and used in an Advanced Aquarist article “Atlantic Lionfish???” in 2006. I’m sure he would appreciate the photo credit 🙂

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