Combating the invasive lionfish
A DECADE OF LIONFISH ERADICATION EFFORTS
In an effort to reduce the destructive impact of the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) on the coral reef ecosystem of Roatan, the Roatan Marine Park has employed a proactive stance, directly engaging the local and visiting community to control the proliferation of this species. The RMP Invasive Lionfish Control Program is a partnership with the Honduran Fisheries Department to issue licenses to certify divers to use permitted Hawaiian slings to reduce numbers of lionfish. We focus on the dissemination of information through educational workshops that cover topics such as lionfish ecology, potential impacts of lionfish proliferation both environmentally and economically, and first-aid treatment. We first began this program in 2010, and now a decade later we have certified 3,164 individuals, to safely remove lionfish from the reef. In addition, we have increased the number of trainers and training centers by working with dive shops like Coco View Resort, Dive Pangea, Fantasy Island, Turquoise Bay Resort and West Bay Divers.
An invasive species is a non-indigenous organism that adversely affects natural habitats and bioregions. Invasive introductions often result from careless human activity whether intentional or accidental, the results of which are likely to cause economic, environmental, and ecological harm. While all species compete to survive, invasive species appear to have specific traits or combinations of specific traits that allow them to out-compete native species.
Sometimes they simply have the ability to grow and reproduce more rapidly than native species; other times it involves a complex set of traits and interactions. Common invasive species traits include: Fast growth rates, rapid/frequent reproduction, high dispersal ability, phenotypic plasticity (the ability to alter one’s growth form to suit current conditions), tolerance of a wide range of environmental conditions (generalist), and the ability to live off of a wide range of food types (generalist).
Invasive species often coexist with native species for an extended time, and gradually the superior competitive ability of an invasive species becomes apparent as its population grows larger and denser and it adapts to its new location. (Note: Because the introduction of invasive is not a naturally occurring process, it does not fall under the umbrella of natural selection or survival of the fittest). With the introduction of a species into an ecosystem that can multiply and spread faster than the native species, the balance is changed and the resources that would have been used by the native species are now utilized by an invader. This impacts the ecosystem and changes its composition of organisms and their use of available resources.
In an effort to reduce the destructive impact of the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) on the coral reef ecosystem of Roatan, the Roatan Marine Park has employed a proactive stance, directly engaging the local and visiting community to control the proliferation of this species. The RMP Invasive Lionfish Control Program focuses on the dissemination of information through educational workshops that cover topics such as; lionfish ecology, potential impacts of lionfish infestations both environmentally and economically, first-aid treatment, and immediate and future goals of the program.
We host a workshop every Monday and Wednesday for visiting and local divers and freedivers to get licensed and begin spearing lionfish. The workshop consists of an informational video, briefing, and practical test. The course takes about an hour and costs $70 which includes your license and Hawaiian sling spear. $10 discount if you have a Roatan Marine Park bracelet.
All spearfishing in a marine protected area is illegal in Honduras. However, with a Roatan Marine Park issued Bay Islands Lionfish Spearing License, visiting and local divers and free divers are legally allowed to use a Hawaiian sling or pole spear of up to 3 feet, only to hunt lionfish. We prefer divers to be at least Advanced Open Water Divers or experienced Open Water Divers with many dives under their belt and good buoyancy control. It is important to ensure that we don’t damage the reef while spearing lionfish who tend to hide in its crevices. For non divers we do offer snorkeling and freediving licenses however please note that your license will not be allowed for diving. As part of the course we will take you on a short dive or snorkel to practice shooting the spear with underwater targets.
Please do your part to support our local community's fishermen and businesses who are helping us take on this threat to our ecosystem by supporting local restaurants who serve lionfish. Lionfish is delicious and by eating them you are helping to save the reef. By requesting lionfish in restaurants you are helping to drive an interest in supplying them. Lionfish hunting is labor intensive and costly work and sometimes it is not possible to meet market demand, so please be patient if a restaurant doesn’t have enough stock.
ATTEND OUR LIONFISH WORKSHOP
In an effort to reduce the destructive impact of the invasive lionfish on the marine ecosystem of Roatan, RMP is working with the community to control the proliferation of this species throughout our reefs. The RMP Invasive Lionfish Control Program conducts weekly educational and practical spearfishing workshops to prepare divers for their first catch.
It is mandatory to watch the video before attending the workshop.