The Lionfish Apocalypse (Part II)

Sadly, the Lionfish invasion is upon us and the future forecast for any relief, is pretty dim.

As stated in my prior writing on this subject (The Lionfish Apocalypse-Part I) I focused on some statistics that should frighten anyone. Even if you think that what happens in the oceans doesn’t affect you, you are wrong. It affects us all on some level.

In listing what we as individuals can do, one of my suggestions was to write to your government representative—your Senator or Congressman in the US or Mr. Edison Deleveaux, the Acting Director for Marine Resources or the Bahamas National Trust in the Bahamas. Tell them that you are concerned and need them to act on this. NOW. Not sure how to contact them? Please use:

 USA: Elected Officials

Bahamas: National Trust

Bahamas: Ministry of Fisheries

Even politicians need our support. Please consider this missed opportunity in the US:

Although he is no longer in office, in 2013 US Senator, David Vitter, from Louisiana was concerned and on top of this issue. He wrote a letter to the director of NOAA over 5 years ago! (Remember the studies that indicate how quickly these little red striped devils reproduce!) But as best I can tell, he got little support and no assistance.

I don’t know why the folks at NOAA are not more vocal and don’t appear to the average person to be taking this threat seriously. This is an invasion the likes of which has never been seen before and action needs to be taken.

Louisiana, along with the other Gulf states supply many with a bounty of delicious seafood from the Gulf; an industry that generates in excess of $500 million per year. Many in the Bahamas rely on the sea for their livelihoods. Besides the environment, there are many jobs, not to mention revenue, at stake here. The native species that call the waters we enjoy home are under attack. Once Lionfish move in, they devour 90% of a reefs inhabitants in short order. These are the same reefs and ecosystems that many were so concerned about when oil was leaking into the waters!!! The same groups are almost mute when it comes to this encroaching maritime disaster.

Why aren’t the same alarms being set off?  Where is a call for action?!?

The same species affected by oil spills are also affected by the presence of Lionfish. They are found in both shallow and very deep waters. As I stated previously, their density in the invaded waters are at a much higher ratio than in their native waters. They have no known predators, sans man, so there is no stopping them unless we intervene.

This sad scenario hasn’t kept some people from trying. In addition to Senator Vitter, there have been multiple groups trying to get government action. Yes, commercial fishermen have been catching lionfish in record amounts, as a by-catch. Both commercial and recreational fishermen have taken them out every chance they can in organized derbies and other opportunities. But what is frustrating is when concerned citizens—taxpaying, voting citizens—get no help from the very government they support.

I think saddest of all is that this, by all appearances, is a man-made issue. My own opinion is that a few aquarium owners must’ve decided it was time to put their kept fish back into the sea—I am sure it was either with good intentions or that they were just too tired of taking care of them—or maybe a little of both. Anyway, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the outcome of what must’ve seemed like the “right” thing to do.

Speaking for myself, as someone who has gone from the first initial surprise encounter with a single Lionfish under our dock over a decade ago in the Bahamas, to now encountering what is the marine equivalent of a zombie apocalypse with multiples of them everywhere-- whether under a dock or a reef or at a lobster trap, I know firsthand what a BIG problem this is—and only getting BIGGER by the day!

So what is next?

As I wrote previously, please spread the word and bring awareness about this coming apocalypse. Support and if possible, participate in Lionfish derbies. Support student studies that are taking place. Join wild life groups that are trying to solve the issue. Write and engage those political angles. Buy jewelry and products made from Lionfish components. Please encourage your favourite restaurants to serve Lionfish. Maybe they will even offer them as specials and educate folks a little bit at the same time. It is the one good thing about these fish—they ARE tasty.