Jamaica has Lionfish

Here is a recent story by Erin Burge of Coastal Carolina University:
The spear was homemade by a staff member at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, Omar Spence. It was a Hawaiian sling style handle (short PVC tube) ziptied to an old piece of rubber tubing. The spear itself was a piece of aluminum conduit. The spear points were 4-5 prongs of heavy gauge stainless steel plugged into the end with a piece of old car tire.
The story for these pictures:
Every year I lead a 2.5 week trip to Discovery Bay, Jamaica, for undergraduates at Coastal Carolina University. While there the students take a coral reef ecology class (http://www.ecologyofcoralreefs.com) and participate in research projects that they devise (with faculty guidance). Our school has been going to Discovery Bay Marine Lab for 25 years, and I have been involved with the program since 2007. In 2007, we didn't see any lionfish on the shallow reefs of the north shore of Jamaica (see the map at the above site). On our local hardbottom dives off of SC and NC lionfish are very abundant at some sites (see my video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qngZBYHlznQ). During class in May 2008 we found 1 lionfish on a deep wall dive, west of DBay. In 2009 we encountered lionfish frequently (I saw saw them on 16 or 17 dives of the 40 I did). By 2010 we saw multiple individuals on EVERY dive at EVERY dive site. A partner and I removed many of the fish we encountered, but there were always more at the sites we visited infrequently. I kept fin clips and length data for these fish to send to NOAA. The largest fish we killed was 370 mm (14 1/2 in) and the smallest was 85 mm (3 1/3 in). I have seen much larger fish locally off of SC and NC. I plan to a research project (pending funding) to examine age, growth, and feeding ecology of Jamaica lionfish in May 2011. We'll need money to buy a few more pole spears, some needle-stick gloves and a better microscope. The reefs of this part of Jamaica are severely overfished, and the addition of lionfish is likely to exacerbate this problem. A pair of fish we speared at about 90' on the west forereef at DBay was herding small reef fishes into an overhanging crevice to devour them. Upon dissection they were packed with small fishes. We saved the fish we speared over a couple of weeks and the kitchen staff prepared a meal of escoveitch fish (http://eatjamaican.com/recipes/escoveitchedfish-recipe.html) for us that fed 14 people with leftovers.
Erin Burge


What do Cosumel and Eleuthera have in common?

LIONFISH INVASION. I just recently receive
d lionfish sitings from Cosumel Mexico and Eleuthera Bahamas.

Cosumel: Tim, from Louisiana, was able to kill 17 lionfish at Medio reef before the captain of the dive boat made him stop. From what I understand, the government of Mexico frowns on the killing of lionfish.

John, from North Carolina (up in the hills), was on vacation in the south end of Eleuthera. He was diving a reef at about 45 ft down and noticed hundreds around this one reef head. He caught a lobster, discarded the head, and within minutes he noticed around 60 lionfish hovering around the head. The lionfish had already depleted the juvenile fish around the reef and were ready to devour anything else.

These stories prove to me that the lionfish problem is already out of control. I can not believe we are not taking greater action to eradicate this fish. PLEASE promote the killing and eating of lionfish.