BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday December 30, 2011 – The discovery of the lionfish (Peterois volitans) off the west coast has caused authorities to implement the second phase of a plan developed specifically to respond to the ferocious predators.
The sighting has also sparked an in-depth scientific monitoring and research programme involving the University of the West Indies, the Coastal Zone Management Unit and the Fisheries Division along with several volunteer fishermen and divers.
The Fisheries Division in the Ministry of Agriculture said a rapid expansion is now likely over the next couple of years.
“…We are reminding all divers, fishers and sea bathers to be on the lookout for these fish and to immediately report the location of any that are spotted directly to the Fisheries Division, the Coastal Zone Management Unit or through the recently established UWI Lionfish Hotline,” a fisheries official stated.
With red and white stripes and a tall row of venomous spines down their backs, the invasive predator is native to the Pacific Ocean.
It is believed to have entered Caribbean waters in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank in the US state of Florida.
The Washington-based World Resources Institute said the lionfish, is a serious threat to coral reefs across the Caribbean where states are largely dependent on tourism.
It consumes juvenile snapper and grouper along with algae-eating parrotfish, all of which help keep reefs healthy.