11/11/10

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.
Thanks!
Erin Burge

2 comments:

Adam said...

I am going to Flordia with a few friends of mine and we are wanting to go hunting in a place that is right off shore. Any sugestions?
I am hearing that Key Largo is a good place to go???

Jimmy said...

Awesomeness! Love all kinds of fish, and the lion fish is a bit up in the list. :)

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call Jamaica