Three years after being discovered in Barbados’ waters, a top Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) official says she doesn’t believe it is possible to eradicate the predator and that attention should be turned to controlling it.
The comment by Dr Lorna Inniss, acting director of the CZMU coincided with the first Lionfish Derby and cook-off held on Saturday, organised by her unit.
“Not all of the islands across the Eastern Caribbean have the capacity to do what we’re doing. Some of them don’t even have the expertise. Also, Barbados is one of the few countries with a Coast Zone Management Unit dedicated to doing these kinds of thing.
“Most of the other islands have an environment unit that has to deal with climate change, land degradation, coastal erosion, and gullies and streams and rivers and pollution and everything else and they [units] have three and four people in them.
“So it is very hard for those countries to address something like this in a comprehensive way,” she said.
Inniss noted that the invasive species, which can eat up to 30 times its own body weight daily, has decimated coral reefs in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Jamaica.
She said if it was not controlled, it could have serious implications for Barbados.
“If you think about the economic and social consequences of an invasion like this where Barbados as a small island developing state with limited economic opportunities really because we are so small, trying to maintain a vibrant tourism industry, trying to keep our coral reefs there so that we can attract international divers to come here and stay and spend money, and you have a small, pretty looking lionfish just invading and destroying the entire ecosystem.
“This is not just environment we’re talking about; this has economic and social consequences for all of the countries that are experiencing it,” she explained.
The derby, which was held on Saturday at Harbour Lights, Carlisle Bay, Bay Street, St Michael, forms part of the third component of a draft management plan for the fish that has already spread to the coastal waters all around the island.
The first component dealt with sensitization and public awareness; the second component dealt with training; while the third will focus on continuous culling and public awareness.
However, Caroline Bissada, a marine biologist with the CZMU, said it was still too early to determine the effect the fish has had on the country’s natural sea habitat, including coral reefs.
“We did baseline studies where we looked at reef fish communities around Barbados, so its been about two or three years since they’re here. So we’re going to repeat the study and then we’ll be able to see if there’s a change in species diversity or total number in species on our reefs.”