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Jan 29, 2009

Predatory Lionfish sighted in Belizean waters

Story PictureThe Westerhaven has not been the only one to cause damage to the Barrier Reef. There is another case we reported on January twenty-third in which Duane Miller, the owner of Bread and Butter Caye in the south, was fined for using living corals as landfill on his island. And tonight we report that there is another danger that may be as detrimental and destructive to the reef and there won’t be anyone to pay damages. It is a creature of the sea, the Lionfish. The Lionfish is a predatory fish that eats just about anything it sees, even fish twice its size. A controlled experiment in the Bahamas resulted in the Lionfish killing a large portion of the fish species. It is dangerous to humans, and according to Beverly Wade, Administrator of the Fisheries Department, the Lionfish has been spotted in Belizean waters.

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator
“The lionfish is a fish that is native of the Indo Pacific region. It’s not an endemic species for the Atlantic region. Unfortunately, it’s been introduced to our region. Some studies will tell you either intentionally or unintentionally, the bottom line is that it is here. People have traced it back to an intentional release during hurricane Andrew from various aquariums along the Florida coast. There’s no—nobody has pinned down the real source of the species being released into the Atlantic region but it is here and we do know that the source is from Florida.”

“There’s been two sightings. There’s been one in Turneffe and one at Glover’s reef. And we have those pictures here in the department and we are now working with other partners who are working in the field and also through the National Coral Reef Monitoring Groups to now spread the word out. If you notice on the web, several partners have on their website now, posters saying what is the Lionfish, a little bit of information on it and to report it to Fisheries Department so that we can start get an understanding of its distribution in our Belizean waters.”

“It’s eating the juvenile fishes and it eats commercial species. In Bahamas they did a study and it ate species such as the grunts, it ate the parrot fish and other herbivores which play an important role on our reef system. It also eats juvenile species like the grouper and the snapper that we target here commercially. It’s been known to have a big effect on fish population. They did a five week study in the Bahamas, did recruitment in important species which fell by seventy-nine percent and that is significant. So the potential is there for it to have a major impact on the coral reef ecosystem and I guess the activities; fishing activities and tourism at the end of the day , because if you’re eating out the Herbivores, which are also fished. Those herbivores, their population become more vulnerable and you run the risk of not carrying out the important role that they carry out to keep the reefs healthy at the end of the day. Not to mention that they are venomous creatures and so if divers and even fishers come in contact, they are not a very friendly specie; it’s a nasty species to come in contact with.”

Wade says that there are very few known natural predators for the Lionfish. And even in the Indo Pacific Region, predators are hard to find. Anyone who sees a Lionfish is urged to report the sighting immediately to the Fisheries Department.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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