Lionfish Containment Program incorporating structured culling practices, data collection, and promotion for consumption and jewelry production.
The invasion of lionfish (Pterios volitans/miles) is quickly becoming known as one of the worst in history, and continues to cause alarming impacts on a growing number of marine ecosystems, including the Caribbean Sea. The Lionfish are a highly adaptable species; they are voracious and non-selective generalist feeders that have been observed to consume an unsustainable number of commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important reef species. These factors; combined with an apparent lack of natural predators, low parasite load, and remarkably high reproductive rate; have proven to make the lionfish very difficult to eradicate. The aforementioned effects are further compounded by the ecosystem stressors already existing in the Caribbean Sea, which include overfishing, coral bleaching, habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution.
Lionfish threaten the diversity and function of Caribbean marine ecosystems in a number of ways. They have already caused an alarming amount of damage by directly reducing populations of important native reef species through consumption, and are out-competing others for life-sustaining food and resources. If it goes unchecked, lionfish populations will continue to proliferate and may cause irreversible damage to the coral reefs of the Caribbean, which will have serious detrimental effects on the local community, fishers, dive operators, and marine tourism. Efforts to reduce the populations of lionfish in affected areas are vital in the success of mitigating the severe impacts of this widespread invasion.
The most promising method of reducing the impact of lionfish to date is local population culling by divers, snorkelers, and fishers. Though a significant reduction in lionfish populations have been recorded in some areas, their eradication is never permanent and re-colonization is imminent without constant monitoring. Therefore, successful lionfish culling programs must be maintained over a long-term period until a more permanent form of lionfish eradication is discovered and implemented. An alarming number of Lionfish are colonizing the reefs surrounding Carriacou, and few efforts currently exist to reduce populations and control the damage being done by this invasive species in this area.
Reducing the populations and therefore the negative impact of the invasive lionfish in Carriacou will be accomplished and maintained through a containment program consisting of several components. A coordinated culling program has been designed specifically to reduce the numbers of Lionfish on the reefs surrounding Carriacou. This culling program, containing a schedule of culling sessions in pre-determined zones, has been submitted to the Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area (SIOBMPA) and Caribbean Reef Buddy will be performing these culls with the consent and help of MPA Rangers and local divers. Caribbean Reef Buddy will contribute to the growing base of information collected widely by other culling programs in the continued effort to reduce Lionfish populations and the negative impacts of their invasion. Delivered in conjunction with the cull and data collection is a community outreach program aimed at increasing awareness regarding the negative impacts of the Lionfish invasion on the marine environment and the local community, and encouraging their use as an alternative, commercially exploitable species. The community outreach component will target fishers, jewelry artisans, schools, restaurants, the fisheries department, and individuals within the local community.
An invitation to scheduled lionfish dives will be extended to local fishers in order to provide education and awareness of its potential for commercial exploitation, and promote lionfish hunting on a scale of greater magnitude than what scheduled culling efforts can currently achieve outside the MPA. In addition, Caribbean Reef Buddy will select and train 8 local community members to Open Water Diver certification to form the nucleus for Lionfish culls, with all logistics, equipment and boat provided by Caribbean Reef Buddy. Mandatory Lionfish safe handling and preparation workshops will be held for the designated Lionfish hunters and fishers interested in participating in Lionfish culling. Both will receive payment for their participation in culling activities and the ability to keep their catch as incentive to participate.
The promotion of lionfish jewelry production will be implemented in conjunction with local jewelry artisans to further the incentive for hunting lionfish in order to harvest the attractive spines and fins for use in a commercially exploitable product. A comprehensive presentation designed for and delivered to local primary and secondary schools will focus on educating children about the detrimental effects of lionfish on the marine ecosystem, the edible nature of lionfish meat, and the importance of lionfish removal through fishing. The Lionfish caught during culling dives will be given to a local fish market stand for preparation and distribution. A workshop will also be held for local restaurants providing techniques in the preparation of Lionfish dishes to promote exploitation of Lionfish and awareness to locals and visitors alike. To encourage and increase awareness further, quarterly lionfish derbies will be organized with prizes awarded for catch sizes, largest and smallest fish etc. Local chefs will compete for the best lionfish dish, to be served at a lionfish beach party held at the end of the competition day. Local restaurants and Carriacou Board of Tourism have been approached and are very supportive of this initiative.
The Lionfish culling program is linked with Grenada’s country program strategy based on improving sustainability of protected areas and indigenous and community conservation areas through community-based actions. In order to achieve the Lionfish containment program objectives, a total project budget of $201, 607 XCD ($74, 669 USD) has been set, and it will be financed through a combination of funding from Deefer Diving Carriacou Ltd., SIOBMPA, internal sources, and GEF SGP.
There are many benefits to be had from the efforts of the lionfish containment program as pertaining to the stakeholders in the community, including fishers who rely on reef health for catch success, and who will benefit from an alternative catch species for profits. This project will also benefit local restaurants which can sell the lionfish caught, and the general community in an increase of awareness of the lionfish invasion problem. Local artisans will profit from the provision of materials for lionfish jewelry, something that has become recently popular. The designated Lionfish hunters will benefit from an additional source of income. The tourism board of Carriacou and Grenada will benefit from the maintenance of reef health, as vibrant reefs are a major attraction for visitors to the Caribbean.
To ensure that the program is capable of delivering these benefits as planned, Caribbean Reef Buddy will be monitoring its progress through quarterly progress reports submitted to GEF SGP and the Caribbean Reef Buddy committee. Bi-annual reports will be sent to the SIOBMPA committee, local government, and the Fisheries Department. A final report will be submitted to the Head of Fisheries in Carriacou at the end of the year. Reports will include lionfish densities within culling sites over time; and success of community involvement efforts. Caribbean Reef Buddy will disseminate lessons learned via electronic media in the form of blogs on, fliers delivered to local businesses, and the local newspaper and radio station.
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Project Snapshot

Caribbean Reef Buddy Inc.
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 3,647.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 21,022.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Capacity - Building Component
8 local community members will be trained to Open Water Diver certification to form the nucleus for Lionfish culls lionfish jewelry production A comprehensive presentation designed for and delivered to local primary and secondary schools focusing on educating children about the detrimental effects of lionfish on the marine ecosystem, the edible nature of lionfish meat, and the importance of lionfish removal through fishing. A workshop will be held for local restaurants providing techniques in the preparation of Lionfish dishes
Policy Impact
Contribute to the local and regional initiative on dealing with Invasive species of which the lion fish is one
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