Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN 2012

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 9 of 83

GUY TALK LIONFISH IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS In recent years, the Indo-Pacific lionfish has spread from the southeast coast of the USA throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean as far north as Bermuda and as far south as Venezuela. How this occurred has been a source of great debate. However, what is undeniable is that lionfish can reduce the populations of native fish species very rapidly, particularly by preying upon juveniles and reducing recruitment of all species to the reef habitat. There are several examples of humans causing the substantial invasion of a non-native species that thrives extremely well in its new habitat. In short order, this species explodes in biomass because of the lack of natural predators in that new environment and a food source that does not recognize the invader as a predator. But none have had the dramatic (possibly immeasurable), damaging effect that the lionfish has had on Caribbean and western Atlantic native fish populations. In response to the invasion of lionfish around the reefs of the Cayman Islands, where I live, the Department of Environment now offers lionfish culling courses and licenses the use of Hawaiian slings to assist in capturing and killing these fish. Being a small country with a low population, but many of whom dive, fish, or both, the culling of lionfish has become a weekly operation. Many restaurants are now offering lionfish on their menus and, fortunately (for diners), it's delicious. Several dive companies have one day per week set aside for hunting lionfish, particularly in Little Cayman, the diving crown jewel of these islands. A study on the effectiveness of this culling is being undertaken by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, which is based on the north side of Little Cayman. Following the Wednesday culling dives, researchers are measuring the catch per unit effort needed to make a dent in the population and cover the three-mile stretch of wall at Bloody Bay to determine how fast new lionfish colonize the vacated areas. They are also assessing whether the structure and balance of Bloody Bay's native fish population is affected by the continuing, targeted removal of lionfish. The targeted removal of lionfish has several benefits. First, GUY HARVEY, PhD is an internationally-acclaimed artist, fisherman, scientist, and world traveler, who devotes much of his time and money toward ocean conservation.

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