Lawmakers support $5 lionfish bounty

Legislators on Thursday voted in support of a proposal to pay lionfish cullers a bounty of $5 per fish in a bid to tackle the ongoing problem of the invasive species in the Cayman Islands.

The lawmakers agreed with North Side MLA Ezzard Miller’s private member’s motion to use funds from the little used Environmental Protection Fund, which currently holds more than $43 million to pay the bounties.

Mr. Miller said the cost could be recouped by the subsequent sale of the captured lionfish to restaurants.

Environment minister Mark Scotland, who supported the motion, pointed out that because of the recently adopted Framework for Fiscal Responsibility that legislators signed into law earlier this month, taking money from the environmental fund may require permission from the UK government.

Mr. Miller described the invasion of the lionfish, which have voracious appetites for juvenile reef fish, as a “very serious threat to the marine ecosystem and the environment in the Cayman Islands” and he called on the government to get more involved in dealing with the issue.

Lionfish were first spotted in Little Cayman in 2007 and have since become widespread in waters throughout all three islands.

With the support of the Department of Environment, most of the efforts to cull lionfish in local waters are done by the private sector. Dive operators, Foster’s Food Fair IGA and restaurants hosting culling tournaments and sponsoring diving trips to sites throughout Cayman in which recreational and professional divers kill the fish, using specially licensed spears.

Lionfish is the only marine life that can be legally caught and killed by licensed divers in marine parks, following an amendment to the Marine Conservation Law in 2008.

Mr. Miller suggested that individuals who supplement their incomes or earn their incomes exclusively by catching conch and lobster, either in or out of season, could be trained by the Department of Environment to catch lionfish. This would not only have the effect of reducing the numbers of lionfish, but would benefit the lobster and conch populations, the North Side representative said.

Lionfish reach maturity within one year and can release up to 30,000 eggs every four to six days. The species, which originated in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, have no natural predators, so human intervention is currently the only way to remove the creatures from the reefs.

For more on this story, read Monday’s Caymanian Compass.

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Firstly, let me say that I’m speechless that this got passed in the LA.
    However, don’t quit your jobs yet as there is no formal way to access the EPF so you may not get paid your bounty!
    By my simple calculations at 5 per Lionfish brought in, the 43MM EPF would be exhausted in a matter of months as a single adult female Lionfish has the ability to generate up to 2 Million eggs a year.
    Other Caribbean countries have tried this method and failed and it is NOT endorsed by the science community as a valid form of population management.
    If this is indeed true then it is a very big mistake.

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  2. If it is not a scientific way of reducing lionfish numbers, it is a very efficient way of getting money to voters hands in certain districts, hint hint. Its election time fellas, wake up.

    The amount that survive to adulthood would be a more accurate figure to look at although they have a high survival rate

    Also remember than Govt plans to sell the fish to restaurants to at least recoup some of bounty paid per fish. If you catch a 2 lb lionfish and sell it to Govt for 5, they can then sell it at 2.50 a lb to the restaurants, a deep discount relative to other fish. That way they can hopefully breakeven.

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  3. Noted.
    However science published from data collected in Little Cayman has shown that the average overall length is lowered to around 220mm from intense localized culling. Good news for the reef as smaller Lionfish eat smaller prey, however not good for recovering costs per pound ultimately resulting in the money being used in the most appropriate manner.

    To make myself clear, a minimum, sustainable and long term effort is required that the government can afford.

    The solution offered here is short term and cannot be sustained long term as Lionfish are now considered a settled species in the Caribbean and complete eradication is untenable.

    This needs to be readdressed.

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  4. This fish is a problem.

    Suffice it to say it apparently reproduces every 55 days all year long, and a study conducted by Oregon State University found that within five weeks the lionfish can reduce the number of young native fish by as much as 80 percent (lets pray that study is way off).

    While I believe the size of CIG needs to be drastically reduced, this may have been the one time I would have supported them actually considering getting full time staff dedicated to destroying these animals.

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  5. This is another example of the foresite that is being demonstrated by the CIG. The Cayman Island program that brings the entire government,tourist industry, watersport industry,restaurants and commercial grocery market and community together is a superior example of what is necessary to deal with this destructive invader. The Legilators should be commended for their efforts by every Caymanian.

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  6. While anything that reduces Lionfish is a good thing,

    I wonder to what extent the DOE were consulted by Mr Miller prior to the motion – they have some world class experts and expertise and it may well be that the proposed bounty could be better targeted.

    A licenced culler who meets the requirements can already sell the fish direct to restautants and I suspect the fish cashed in for the bounty will be the ones that they can’t get 5 for.

    Normally these smaller lionfish are chopped in half and fed to other fishes and I understand that this is already resulting in Morays developing a taste for them and even some actively hunting live lionfish – the bounty may be counterproductive there.

    The other side is there needs to be some additional teeth to the law to prevent people taking other fish (accidently on purpose) while culling.

    Lionfish Larvae can travel in open water currents for well over a month so even if there was a magic button that could instantly kill all lionfish on Cayman, we’d see lionfish back on our reefs in a matter of months.

    Support the DOE marine park proposals and make the ecosystem stronger and more able to resist the pressures of Lionfish, over fishing, pollution and coral bleaching.

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