The first Lionfish was spotted on Bonaire in October, 2009. They reproduce rapidly and aggressively prey on small fish and invertebrates. The venom of the lionfish, delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal. Their feeding consumption poses a major threat to reef ecological systems all throughout the Caribbean.
Jim Morris, “The Lion Fish Guy,” says it’s our fault. Pretty, frilly fins made the fish a favored pet and lured aquarists and aquarium dealers into a false sense of security. We simply didn’t see how dangerous these charismatic fish were—dangerous not for their venom, but for their beauty. We have trouble killing beautiful things, so instead we choose to release them into the wild, believing somehow that this is a better option when, in actuality, it’s the worst thing we can do.” (Slate News-Christie Wilcox)
Native to the Indio-Pacific, it is now believed aquarium owners first dumped lionfish off the coast of Florida in the mid-1980s. Since the fish don’t have any natural predators here, they have the chance to multiply quickly, overtaking and killing native species, which results in a huge danger for the local environment and aquatic life on Bonaire.
The current management philosophy is to kill ‘em and eat ‘em.
It is legal to hunt lionfish on Bonaire through a dive operator but only when using marine park authorized spears. The Lionfish Hunter Specialty consists of a knowledge development session, practice using the hunting tools and two training dives actually hunting lionfish. You will receive a PADI Lion Fish Hunter specialty card recognized by STINAPA Bonaire (National Park Foundation Bonaire) and you will contribute to keeping our reefs healthy.
To further educate and eradicate these predators STINAPA Bonaire has organized events such as the “Malicious & Delicious Derby” to spotlight the problem and encourage the removal of the invasive lionfish.
National Geographic /Ocean service.noaa.gov/STINAPA Bonaire/Slate News
“Vitamin Sea” coursework project “Jane Davenport Art School” http://www.janedavenport.com
Art Image: S. Craig, Watercolor and ink