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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Update on Bonaire’s Lionfish Situation

Bonaire’s dedicated team of lionfish wranglers are out on the reefs every day, removing hundreds of these invasive fish, which prey upon Bonaire’s naturally occurring marine life.  The Bonaire National Marine Park, under the auspices of STINAPA, works with the volunteers by scheduling and organizing official hunts--often in areas where there are fewer divers, and thus higher numbers of lionfish--to keep as much of the lionfish population as possible in check.

The last official hunt was Saturday, October 15, 2011 and took place in the Karpata Marine Reserve.  All of the fish removed were brought to Bonaire’s CIEE station to be analyzed and processed.  On this day, just from this one location, 214 lionfish were donated to CIEE for research purposes.  Stomachs were removed and the fish were returned to any of the hunters that wanted their fish back for dinner (or whatever other destiny they might have had).

Thanks to CIEE, there are some interesting statistics from the studies of these fish:

Largest by weight - 600g (1.32 pounds)
Largest by Total Length (TL) - 34.5cm (13.58 inches)
Largest by Standard Length (SL) (not including the tail fin) - 26.5cm (10.43 inches)

The single largest lionfish that was brought in over the past two years was donated by Joi Jenkins with a weight of 1050g (2.31 pounds) and total length of 43.8cm (17.24 inches).  The smallest fish during this same timeframe was brought in by Ramon de Leon with a total weight of 0.12g (.02 pounds) and a total length of 2.1cm (.82 inches).

Since October 2009, a total of 2750 lionfish have been donated to CIEE for research purposes, but many more have been removed from Bonaire’s reefs.  Of these, the stomachs of 2,200 fish have been dissected and the contents analyzed.  Ms. Fadilah Ali, a PhD student at Southampton University in the UK, will be presenting the results of this research project on lionfish feeding ecology in Bonaire at the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute conference in Mexico in November.  CIEE will be writing a scientific paper on the topic and will share it when it’s available.  Jerry Ligon has donated time and expertise in order to identify the fish, as well as other items, found in the stomachs resulting in the following list of the number of fish from different families that were found in lionfish stomachs:

Scientific Name, Common name, Number of Fish Found in Lionfish Stomachs

Pomacentridae Damselfish 91
Apogonidae Cardinalfish 77
Grammatidae Basslets 76
Labridae Wrasses 56
Serranidae Seabasses 47
Gobiidae Gobies 68
Blennidae Blennies 41
Lutjanidae Snappers 53
Scaridae Parrotfish 14
Holocentridae Squirrelfish 3
Haemulidae Grunts 11

Although it’s virtually impossible to totally eradicate the invasive lionfish, Bonaire continues to be at the forefront of efforts in the Caribbean region to diminish their harmful effects.  Thanks go to all Bonaire’s lionfish wranglers, as well as those at STINAPA, the Bonaire National Marine Park, and CIEE, who continue through their efforts to help the reefs.  (Source:  CIEE)

Posted by Susan Davis on October 30, 2011 at 4:25pm AST
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