United against Red Lionfish

Cayman’s marine diversity is under assault from the invasive Indo-Pacific Red Lionfish. Fortunately, Cayman’s divers and marine conservationists are pooling their resources to fight the threat presented by this beautiful but dangerous fish.

Far from merely expressing their concern for the impact this invasive species could have on Cayman’s marine environment, divers have gone over to action, with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute benefitting from a generous donation of specialised Lionfish capture equipment.

The equipment was donated by not-for-profit dive club, The Cayman Islands Divers.

‘Thanks to the generous contribution of this specialised equipment from Cayman Islands Divers, CCMI is properly equipped to do our part in helping to control the population of lionfish here in the waters of the Cayman Islands,’ said Claire Dell from CCMI’s Little Cayman Research Centre.

The Lionfish poses a threat to divers and the environment alike, with venomous spines that can inflict an agonisingly painful sting.

The fish is a voracious and indiscriminate feeder, capable of inflicting massive damage on the marine ecosystem by feeding on native marine species. With no known predators in local waters and the ability to reproduce more often and at a younger age than other reef species, the Lionfish has the potential to become the most abundant predator on the reef. Such a change in local reef populations could inflict irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem and has prompted the Department of Environment to take a stand that all Lionfish should be removed from local waters.

‘Red Lionfish should only be caught by those trained and licensed to do the job, they have venomous spines and can be harmful to humans. Specialized equipment is needed to safely capture the species’ stated Bradley Johnson of the DoE.

The members of Cayman Islands Divers are very concerned with preserving the marine environment they enjoy while diving and are keenly promoting the sustainability of the coral reed ecosystem. A number of the organisation’s members have recently attended lionfish licensing sessions presented by the DoE.

‘Many of us are actively involved in spotting and capturing this invasive species,’ said Sharon Whitmore, chairperson of Cayman Islands Divers.

‘We are pleased to be able to donate not just our time, but this much-needed equipment to the CCMI to help with their efforts in Little Cayman.’

The club is based in Grand Cayman and draws members from all walks as

With a custom built 26ft dive boat, they are able to dive most sites around the island.

For more information on the club, contact Sharon Whitmore on 926 1966 or [email protected] or visit www.bsac.ky.

More information on the Central Caribbean Marine Institute is available from www.reefresearch.org.

For more information on the lionfish visit the DoE’s website at www.doe.ky. To report a lionfish sighting please call the DoE on 949-8469, after hours contact information is also available at this number.