THE VALLY, Anguilla, November 18, 2011 – Fisheries officials in Anguilla said the population of the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) appears to be growing at a rapid rate and poses a serious threat to its coral reef ecosystems.
The Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources (DFMR) said more than thirty lionfish have been captured within weeks at three different locations around the island.
“This increase in lionfish numbers does not bode well for our coral reef fishery resources and the ecological well-being of the coral reef ecosystems in Anguilla,” the DFMR stated.
So far, over 100 lionfish specimens have been captured and dissected as the DFMR tries to determine what they are feeding on.
“The lionfish poses a serious threat to local fisheries because they are voracious predators which can devour the young of many of the commercial fish species in Anguilla as well as by out-competing the adult commercial fish for food,” the department further stated.
“By severely reducing the adult coral reef fish populations, lionfish have the potential to upset the natural balance and functioning of coral reef ecosystems.”
The DFMR said it will continue its targeted removal programme at a number of popular near-shore coral reef sites and beaches.
It disclosed plans for a series of awareness sessions with members of the fishing community in the coming months to gain support for a number of proposed comprehensive management measures.
These include the implementation of no-take Marine Protected Areas and the protection of some species of grouper, which preliminary studies indicate may be one of the few known predators of lionfish in the Caribbean at present.
The department added: “Lionfish hunts or removal programmes alone will not be enough to effectively control the rapidly increasing lionfish population in Anguilla, and so our best option is to protect a number of grouper species and hope that over time these grouper species, as well as other large reef fish, will adapt and prey on the destructive lionfish species in Anguilla’s waters.”