speared lionfishBlue Ventures Expeditions has a series of educational vacations in Belize I REALLY wish I could go on. Unfortunately, the dates don’t work for me, but I’m hoping some of you can go and then write a blog post about it!

Blue Ventures’ new lionfish projects start this May to help manage and monitor the progress of the invasive fish in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, which is about 100 miles north of our island at Glover’s Reef. By joining a project you could help reduce the pressure of this invasive fish by participating in regular lionfish culls while SCUBA diving. You will leave satisfied that you have not only been vital in collecting data which contributes to local and regional scientific research but have explored the reefs of the beautiful Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in the process!

The lionfish invasion was first documented in coastal waters near Florida in the 1980s, and thought to be a result of deliberate or accidental releases from private and public aquariums. First officially recorded in Belizean waters as recently as 2008, their population has expanded rapidly throughout the country. With voracious appetites for juvenile fish and no natural predators to control them, they are now considered one of the biggest threats to the coral reef life in the Caribbean.

lionfish catch
A beautiful sight

Joining the Blue Ventures team out on their beautiful remote dive camp in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will:

• Acquire your lionfish hunting licence
• Learn about the marine environment
• Learn how to survey and hunt invasive lionfish
• Improve your dive skills
• Contribute towards valuable research alongside scientists

There are a few spaces left on the following projects:
17 – 23 May 2014
24 – 30 May 2014
13 – 21 Sep 2014

Plus, it’s super affordable. Seven days is just $816 (converted from 495 GPB) and 9 days is $1237. If you’re looking for more than just a dive holiday for a short break, then the Blue Ventures Lionfish Project in Belize could be perfect for you!

To find out more visit the Blue Ventures website or contact Sarah Griffin, their Expeditions and Volunteer Coordinator at sarah@blueventures.org.

belize friends
Make new friends while doing a good deed!

scuba diving work-vacation in belizeIf you like scuba diving and “work-cation” is part of your vocabulary, check out this one week scuba diving work-vacation at Blue Ventures in Belize. Help with efforts to rollback the lionfish invasion by participating in spearfishing hunts, measuring, dissecting and logging your lionfish catch, and conducting site surveys. Vollunteers provide their own flights, gear, hotels before and after camp. The trip costs approximately $790 for the week. The dive camp is in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Included in the cost of your trip:

  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay
  • Three meals per day, including tea and coffee at breakfast and lunch, during the dates of the trip
  • Transfers to dive camp from our meeting point in San Pedro and return at the end of the week
  • Science training with our team
  • Belize Fisheries Department lionfish hunter license
  • PADI SCUBA tune-up course (including manual) with dive instructor on arrival
  • SCUBA diving
  • Use of our SCUBA diving equipment: buoyancy control device (BCD); breathing regulator; weight belt; weights and cylinder
  • Comprehensive logistical support and pastoral care from our team of permanent staff
  • Health and safety provision from our Expedition Manager and SCUBA Diving Manager(s)

Scuba Diving Work-Vacation

There are two trips currently scheduled:

Trip 1

  • Pick up – from San Pedro on Saturday 17th May 2014 (meeting place: My Secret Deli, next to the Belize Fisheries Department Hol Chan office at 3pm)
  • Drop off – to San Pedro on Friday 23rd May 2014 (at 10am)

Trip 2

  • Pick-up – from San Pedro on Saturday 24th May 2014 (meeting place: My Secret Deli, next to the Belize Fisheries Department Hol Chan office at 3pm)
  • Drop off – to San Pedro on Friday 30th May 2014 (at 10am)

To contact Blue Ventures use this online form.

Location of Blue Ventures Dive Camp northeast of Belize City, Belize (green tent symbol). View in a larger map.

map

Lionfish are a big problem in Belize, the Caribbean and the entire Atlantic. We like to stay on top of the lionfish story and have covered it thoroughly over the past three years on this blog.

Lionfish in the news again

divers hunt lionfishThis update is prompted by several recent news stories: an October 19 CNN report which itself was covered on October 21 in The Christian Science Monitor and on Yahoo News. Kicking off this latest news cycle about the problem, CNN reporter Katie Linendoll and film crew join a Bermuda lionfish hunting expedition at 200 feet and use the occasion to recount the story of the lionfish invasion and the evidence pointing to it’s origins with Florida tropical pet fish owners releasing the exotic species into the wild. CNN has previously covered the story on its Eatocracy blog with an article bearing the catchy title: Eat them before they eat everything.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Elizabeth Barber then climbs on board the lionfish story train, using the occasion to cite a study released three months ago by several US universities that found large populations of the invasive fish at depths up to 300 feet. Since the main impacts of the lionfish invasion so far have been on coral reef ecosystems in shallower waters, this deep water aspect is unusual.The new study shows that, despite somewhat successful campaigns to spur dinner-table demand for lionfish and therefore provide economic incentive for commercial spearfishing of the invader, lionfish may have moved to deeper water to escape the hunt and replenish their population. Found numerous at depths up to 300 feet, they are beyond the reach of most spearfishing expeditions. This is bad news for those hoping the lionfish-for-dinner campaign would rollback the invasion.

On the other hand, an October 10 article in The Cay Compass reports on preliminary findings from two years of field studies at six dive sites off the Cayman Islands where lionfish were systematically hunted. Though the final results of the study have yet to be published, researchers said that the sites where the invasive fish was hunted had a 70% higher count of native species than at comparable control sites. The six test sites were at depths between 50 and 90 feet deep.

Tiger Prawn Joins Lion Fish as Invasive Animal in Belize

It was in 2008 when the Belize Fisheries Department confirmed the first sighting of the invasive Lionfish in Belizean waters. The increasing numbers of the lionfish threatening our ecosystem lead to numerous projects and tournaments to get rid of the invasive lionfish. Now there is another species that joins this creature in Belizean waters – the Tiger Prawn.

Mr. Severo Guerreo Sr, (a local San Pedro fisherman) caught a black tiger prawn shrimp in Shark Ray’s fore-reef. It’s an invasive species found in the Gulf of Mexico. This black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) in particular weighed 8.6 ounces and had a length of 30 cm in size. According to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Office, last month, Lyndon Rodney, Fishery Officer had shared an image of this same species at the Punta Gorda fish market. This proves that this species has made it further south into the Caribbean.

The Tiger Prawn is originally from Australia and Southeast Asia. This shrimp was accidentally released from a research facility near South Carolina into the wild in 1988 and had spread south to Florida in 1990. According to the institute for the Study of Invasive Species, Tiger Prawns are aggressive feeders like the Lion Fish, and the specie is also a known carrier of 16 different viruses that can kill native shrimp species. The plus side is that they are preyed upon by several species and are very tasty.

The invasive crustaceans can offer up to 13 inches and 11 ounces of deliciousness, females can reach approximately 33 centimeters (13 in) long, but are typically 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long and weight 200–320 grams (7–11 oz); males are slightly smaller at 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long and weighing 100–170 g (3.5–6.0 oz).

Tiger prawns are voracious predators and are known to harbor numerous diseases that could spread to white and brown shrimp, oysters, and crabs. Tiger prawns could join the list of invasive species humans seek to control by eating, like wild pigs and lionfish.

So if you happen to come across these creatures don’t throw them back into the water, capture it and enjoy its deliciousness!

Tiger Prawn Joins Lion Fish as Invasive Animal in Belize

Tiger Prawn Joins Lion Fish as Invasive Animal in BelizeTiger Prawn Joins Lion Fish as Invasive Animal in Belize

Because the invasive lionfish species has been having such a huge impact throughout Caribbean reef ecosystems, including on Glover’s Reef, we try to keep abreast any new developments that might give us reason to hope that someday they at least will be held in check, if not generally eradicated from the Caribbean reefs they invaded. This video, posted last week to YouTube by someone using the handle “michaelmillet,” shows a barracuda munching down on one unlucky lionfish after it had first been speared by a diver.  Perhaps this is a sign that the native species (barracuda) is gaining a taste for the invader (lionfish). This would be a welcome trend, adding a valuable new predator. Go barricuda!

 

spearinglionfish

The fight to combat the invasive lionfish (which is decimating coral reef fish domains in the Caribbean) took another step in the right direction when the Cayman Islands Tourism Association announced a new lionfish-spearing contest that doubles as a publicity push to increase demand for the fish from local restaurants – Restaurants And Watersports Operators To Partner For Major Lionfish Culling Effort.The tournament, planned for April 26 – 27 on Grand Cayman Island by grocer Foster Food Market , also involves local water sports outfitters.

We’ve blogged about the lionfish plague a lot, and recently, about our own meager efforts to jump start a new craze for lionfish cuisine. But this moves the effort to an entirely new level. Yeah! Go (away) lionfish!!

‘Beautiful, healthy reefs are critical to our dive tourism in the Cayman Islands,’ states Jane van der Bol, executive director for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association ‘By pairing watersports operators and their clients with local restaurants that want to serve lionfish, this event aims to create a self-fulfilling supply and demand situation for this delicious fish. In the process, Cayman’s marine environment benefits!’

We have blogged about the invasive lionfish a number of times, but this New York Times article by Carl Safina sheds an entirely unique perspective on the crisis.

Carl Safina is founder of Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University and a MacArthur Fellow. His books include “A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout,” and “The View From Lazy Point; A Natural Year in an Unnatural World,” which won the  2012 Orion Award. His series “Saving the Ocean” will be premiering this fall on PBS television.

Mr. Safina also has a reputation as a super fisherman. In this, the fourth in a series of New York Times articles about the invasive lionfish, he writes about a fascinating new theory on how, or why, the lionfish invasion of the Atlantic and Caribbean has succeeded.

 

Over the course of the last week, our “Saving the Ocean” video crew touched shores and reefs of the Bahamas, Florida and Mexico. Each time we landed on the sea floor, we quickly found lionfish. How could they have spread in the Atlantic so quickly after being nonexistent here just 20 years ago?

 

Something that keeps them in check in their native Indian Ocean and west Pacific haunts is missing here. It’s often the case that invaders transported to new haunts quickly build to plague-like levels. But I have an additional thought in this case. Before widespread overfishing, Atlantic reefs held enormous numbers of fishes of dozens of species. They all managed to find enough food to support themselves. With so many fish depleted by our hooks, nets and traps, all the food that once made groupers, snappers, sea basses and others was available to go elsewhere.

Lionfish may be, in that sense, the incarnation of all the other fish we’ve already eaten. How they’re overdoing it just might reflect, at least in part, how we’ve overdone it.

From the New York Times — About 20 years ago, one of the world’s most beautiful and otherworldly fish, the red lionfish, started showing up in south Florida and the Caribbean. Now, they’re a plague. Millions of them live from northeastern South America to New York, from water you can stand in down to depths of a thousand feet.

In a world where the main concern about fish is overfishing, and the main demand on fish is to feed an increasingly hungry human-dominated world, it may see odd to complain about abundance. But theirs is an abundance that produces widespread scarcity. That’s because invaders from afar often crowd out or gobble a wide array of desirable natives. And as an invading saltwater fish — the lion is king.

read more…

Over the past couple of years, out at Slickrock’s Adventure Island on Glover’s Reef, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the lionfish population. And we’ve blogged about the problem at least five times over the past couple of years. That’s because the lionfish, an invasive species, is decimating coral reef fish populations all across the Caribbean.

Leading the charge in the movement to deal with the problem is a twitter feed and website called killthelionfish whose slogan, “Catch, kill, eat, repeat” says it all. They, along with a number of formal organizations and websites, are promoting the eating of lionfish as a delicacy in hopes of spurring commercial fishing of lion fish.

Well, if you think that’s getting creative, today I came across this post on Facebook about how Tranquilseas Eco Lodge Hotel & Dive Centre in Roatan, Honduras (about 110 miles south of Glover’s Reef) is trying to teach grouper fish to eat the lionfish but from the pics, it looks like the grouper is having none of it.

And, as it turns out, we can even go them one better. Here, in this video, one of our guides has a lionfish on his spear and succeeds in getting an eel to eat it.