Lionfish, oh my!
When more than 1,100 Bermudian primary school children took part in the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences [BIOS] Explorer programme at the East End research facility in the spring of 2011, two colourful lionfish, Simba and Nala, were among the stars of the show.
But the lionfish were being displayed to teach the youngsters an important lesson about Bermuda’s delicate marine ecosystem.
“Simba and Nala, and volunteers from the Ocean Support Foundation, were on hand to explain the perils of allowing this invasive animal to gain a foothold in Bermuda: while they may look spectacular with their spots, stripes and frills, these lionfish are voracious predators against which Bermuda’s reef fish have no defense,” said BIOS Outreach Programme coordinator Dean Lea. “Fortunately they are delicious — so let’s eat ‘em to beat ‘em”.
Efforts to snatch victory from the jaws of the lionfish by enlisting restaurants to add the fish to their menus continue to gain momentum both locally and in the US thanks to the “Eat Them To Beat Them” initiative first launched on the island by the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo’s Chris Flook.
Mr. Flook — who heads Bermuda’s Lionfish Project aimed at reducing the numbers of the invasive species in local waters — has lectured internationally on how restaurants could help reduce the scavenger’s numbers.
The growth of lionfish numbers in the Atlantic and Caribbean over the last decade continue to raise major concerns among marine conservationists in Bermuda, Florida and the West Indies.
Native to the Indo-Pacific ocean and the Red Sea, lionfish have no known predators in the Atlantic.
“It’s a perfect invader. Not having evolved in this ocean it has many advantages that allow it to flourish,” said Laddie Akins, director of special operations at Florida’s Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
REEF is a charity group of civic-minded divers perhaps best known for their ongoing fish surveys.