KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Ministry of Agriculture says it will work with individuals here to see how best it can control the destructive lionfish species, which was recently confirmed as living in this country’s seas.
“Here again, there is another pest, another predator, that is attacking our fish in our waters and can create further reduction in fish, which is food that is available to us,” Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel said at a media briefing yesterday.
“The ministry is alerting all Vincentians to the effects of this fish, and so, we want the public to be aware,” he further stated.
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific but have made their way to warm ocean habitats worldwide.
The species was confirmed as existing here after tests conducted on a specimen captured in the waters north of Young Island.
Lionfish is venomous and has red-and-white zebra stripes, long, showy pectoral fins, and a generally cantankerous demeanour.
The venom is delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins and a sting from a lionfish is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but rarely results in death.
“The lionfish, which is quite a pretty colour fish, is one that is vociferous. It is a predator and eats almost every single fish that comes into its path. It eats the eggs and the young ones,” Daniel said.
“It lives, basically, around the reefs, where a lot of the groupers and hinds and so on will lay their eggs,” he further said.
“It is not easy to eradicate this fish because the biological nature of this fish is that it reproduces every month and can lay up to 30,000 eggs at any one time,” Daniel said, adding that the species “is not going to be easy to control”.
“… the general public must be aware and … the Fisheries Department will do its endeavour best to ensure that we do whatever levels of control we can to reduce its presence. It is not going to be easy to eliminate. But it is here with us,” Daniel said.
Lionfish can grow to about 15 inches in length, but the average size is 1 foot. It can live for up to 15 years in the wild and can weight up to 2.6 pounds and are eaten in some places.
Some environmentalists are concerned that success of this non-indigenous species presents human and environmental dangers.
A lionfish will often spread its feathery pectoral fins and herd small fish into a confined space where it can more easily swallow them.