Grant aids efforts to fight lionfish

| 15/07/2015
Cayman News Service

The invasive lionfish

(CNS): The continuing battle against lionfish invasion has received a boost with a grant awarded to the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in Little Cayman to support its WILD programme (Whole-Island Lionfish Defence).

In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to get rid of the harmful fish, Little Cayman is hosting the Second Annual Little Cayman Lionfish Culling Tournament today (15 July), starting at 4:30pm.

CCMI, which has been looking at the impact of this invasive species on native fish and coral reefs, has conducted one of the longest continuous lionfish research projects in the wider Caribbean, collecting data on more than 4,300 lionfish since 2011.

The latest grant from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, part of a multi-year support effort, coupled with the assistance of the local dive community and partners from the University of Florida, has enabled this ongoing work.

The institute has run a three-year study focused on whether lionfish-removal efforts adequately sustain populations of ecologically and economically important native fish in the Cayman Islands. Results show that sites with consistent lionfish-removal efforts have about a 70 percent higher native fish density compared to sites where lionfish are not removed.

Lionfish densities are also three times lower at regularly culled sites around Little Cayman than at non-culled sites.  This project has generated strong conservation results, and has been locally helpful in preserving biodiversity in one of the most successful marine-protected areas in the Caribbean, Bloody Bay Marine Park.

“This work will hopefully provide new answers for nations throughout the region facing economic losses as a result of the lionfish invasion,” said Dr. Allison Candelmo, CCMI research associate. “We are confident that the lionfish-culling techniques used in our study will be widely applicable throughout the lionfish’s invaded range.”

After the culling tournament, all lionfish will be brought to CCMI for dissection, stomach content analyses, and other data collection.  Lionfish will then be returned to the Little Cayman Beach Resort for a cookout on Friday, 17 July, which will include a judging and awards ceremony; the event is open to the public and begins at 6:00pm.

Marine artist and conservationist Guy Harvey said he is proud to support the institute’s work, pointing out that CCMI continues to be at the forefront of the lionfish issue “from studying the effects of this invasive fish on our reefs to engaging the public in lionfish culls”.

For more information, visit the CCMI website or email Kristi Foster

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