In Florida, divers collected over 650 invasive lionfish off the reefs during a series of lionfish derbies in the Keys. Lionfish hail from the South Pacific and have no known predators in the Atlantic. Additionally, since they are novel, many reef fish might not recognize them as the voracious predators that they are. This is especially problematic and has been cause for concern for quite some time. According to a NOAA website, lionfish were first observed in the Atlantic in 2002 and have been sighted all along the Atlantic seaboard and as far north as Long Island, NY. I am very aware of this population. It has made the press several times over the past 5 years, and while I have not observed one directly, I know of divers who collect them around Shinnecock Inlet, not far from some of my dive locations. (Maybe one day I’ll actually do a recreational dive around there and spot one for myslef!)
Back to the story at hand. Lionfish are invasive and threatening to local populations. So, in the US state and federal governments encourage the capture of these tropical invaders. But other countries in the Caribbean have also joined suit. Jamaica actually promotes the consumption of lionfish to encourage fishermen to harvest them. This acts as a double whammy – it protects some species from exploitation while also preventing lionfish from eating juveniles. While I don’t know of a fishing method that specifically targets lionfish, and I don’t want it to seem as though I promote overfishing, wouldn’t it be nice if fishermen could over-harvest to the point of local extinctions a pesky invader? According to the Jamaica article linked above, lionfish reportedly sells for ~$12 a pound in the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos government has offered a $3000 award to the first fisherman to catch 3000 lionfish. Similar lionfish derbies in Jamaica have already netted over 1400 of these fish. With all the effort, one would hope that lionfish could be controlled to the point where they are ecologically insignificant in the Caribbean and Atlantic.
By the way, according to the Florida article, when cleaned properly, lionfish is a nice white meat which is considered a delicacy in many places.
Keep up the good work divers!