Join in our efforts to control the population of this invasive species and “Be the predator!”
As a Reef Buddy volunteer, you will be trained to safely remove members of the invasive Lionfish population from the reefs surrounding Carriacou. To date, volunteers participating in the containment program have helped to remove over 1500 lbs of Lionfish from the local reefs. We collect data on size, weight, and stomach contents of captured Lionfish – many have then been cooked over an open fire during our “castaway” remote island trips! The data collected is shared with international organisations to help gather information on this highly adaptable invasive species.
Lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) are invasive in the Caribbean. Their natural habitat is the Indo-Pacific, where they have natural predators such as eels, grouper, and triggerfish. In their invasive range, Lionfish have no natural predators and their population has rapidly expanded since first being sighted off the coast of Florida in 1985. Today, their invasive range stretches from as far north as Massachusetts, throughout the Caribbean to Venezuela. In some areas, as many as 300 Lionfish per hectare have been recorded.
Lionfish are voracious eaters. Dining on small reef fish and crustaceans, they are known as a gape-limited predator, meaning they will eat anything that fits within the circumference of their mouth. Capable of eating prey up to 2/3 their body size, a Lionfishes stomach will expand up to 30 times its empty volume. This invasive population poses a serious threat to small and juvenile reef creatures across the Caribbean. The non-specific nature of their feeding habits means they are directly impacting on both environmentally and commercially important fish and crustacean species.
Lionfish are a beautiful fish, which were likely released from aquaria off the SE coast of U.S.A. They are armed with 18 venomous spines distributed throughout their dorsal, pectoral, and anal fins, capable of delivering a painful, but treatable sting, relieved by immersing the affected area in hot water.
Female Lionfish release eggs on an average of 5 times a year to as often as every 4 days, with the potential to put forth over a million eggs per year.
Without efforts to control the booming population of Lionfish, Caribbean reefs are at risk of irreversible damage. While it is unrealistic to think we can eradicate this voracious predator, we can do our best to remove members of the invasive population. Caribbean Reef Buddy has received funding by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), implemented by United Nations Development Programme UNDP, to run a Lionfish Containment project with the goal of reducing the population of these invasive fish around Carriacou.
Through this program, we have trained a team of local community members to dive and safely hunt Lionfish during weekly culls. Any catch is sold to local restaurants for sale to hungry customers. We raise awareness about invasive Lionfish in the community through school programs and regular lionfish BBQs, support a Lionfish jewelry program, and hold quarterly derbies covering all of Carriacou, with prizes for the biggest and smallest catches, as well as the best recipes!
A separate record and photos of our lionfish catches can be found in our Carriacou Lionfish Containment Blog.