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Let’s show Lionfish who is king of the environment!

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Fri, Mar 30. 2012

Editor: Just when the peoples of the Caribbean are coming to terms with the impacts associated with current economic melt down, there is yet another issue to confront – Yes, it is the presence of Lion Fish in the Caribbean Sea.{{more}} Just imagine a venomous fish with few predators, including man, feeding on over fifty species of fishes, living in marine ecosystems, especially coral reefs, and constitute a threat to human lives or well being? Well, your imagination has now become reality, and this fish is not only a threat to health but also to economic, social and ecological considerations.

Some people may say that it was only a matter of time before this invasive species reached the islands of the southern Caribbean. But like it or not, it is here, and the cost of inaction is not one that small Island states such as ours can afford. So there is urgent need for intervention, and the time is now!

While researchers and scientists study the habits of this fish in an effort to provide innovate ways to reduce its expected impacts, the people of the Caribbean have a billion dollar tourism industry to protect, not forgetting the lives and other livelihood initiatives, especially in coastal communities. The billion dollar question is: How can the region reduce the Lion Fish population growth to the extent that it does not constitute a threat to the economy, human health and marine ecological system?

In the absence of a single correct answer, one thing for sure is that the answer lies in a series of plans and strategies to be carried out in collaboration among stakeholders within the society. This proposed relationship among these stakeholders can range from simple to highly technical and complex. Another salient fact to consider in responding to the question is that there is definitely a need for a unified national and regional effort to aid success. Certainly, it is yet another opportunity where the region can show resilience and creativity in solving another common problem.

There are some suggestions in the public domain for discussion and consideration. There is the concept of rewarding divers and fisher-folks for catching the venomous fish. While there are upsides to this, it will also increase the likelihood of human contact. Another is to introduce a predator that can restrict the lion fish’s population growth, but there are numerous questions associated with it – as there are with any invasive species. However, of interest is the idea of carefully preparing and consuming the lion fish so that it nourishes the body without harming it. This initiative can lead to another unique “national dish” of some sort.

Irrespective of what is being proposed and adopted, the ultimate goal must be to manage the population growth of the lion fish to the extent that it is not a challenge to the region. Any such approach must be sustainable and long-term in its outlook and all inclusive in its scope, embracing all interests. Let’s show the Lion fish who is king of the environment!

Neri James

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