Ministry Holding Lionfish Trapping Experiment

June 29, 2015

The Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment are advising boaters that the Marine Resources Section of the Department of Environmental Protection is conducting lionfish trapping experiments this summer and are advising the public to be careful to avoid the traps.

A spokesperson said, ”Currently, traps are located on the South Shore from Castle Roads to the area off Devonshire Bay in approximately 200ft of water; however, starting next week, commercial fishermen will be assisting with the experiments and will be placing traps in other areas of the Bermuda Platform – Southwest, East and North. Traps will be identified with flag buoys similar to those used on lobster traps.

Lionfish photo courtesy of Sergey Goncharov

lionfish-photograph-award

“The trapping experiments are part of the effort to find solutions for controlling invasive lionfish, which pose a threat to Bermuda’s reef ecosystem. As announced by the Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment in May 2014 in the House of Assembly, this is one of the initiatives implemented as part of a Lionfish Control Plan by the Lionfish Taskforce [a collaborative effort between Government, NGOs, and concerned citizens].”

“The traps target lionfish in deeper waters, and will complement the volunteer culling programme that helps control lionfish in the shallows. As a result of fundraising by the Taskforce, including a very generous donation from local hardware store Gorham’s Limited, the fishermen will be compensated for assisting with the experiments.

“Lionfish have been regularly caught as bycatch in commercial lobster traps since 2008, so these traps have been used as the basis for the lionfish traps. The Marine Resources Section has been testing different types of funnels and baiting strategies, with the goal of increasing the catch of lionfish, reducing the catch of spiny lobster and maintaining the low levels of finfish bycatch for which the lobster trap was developed.

“Previous testing has revealed that a fixed funnel opening keeps large fish like groupers out of the traps, and the escape slots in the sides of the trap allow smaller fish to get out but keep lionfish in.

“The trapping experiments have garnered interest from other countries in the region that are also battling the lionfish invasion.

“Dr. Joanna Pitt of the Marine Resources Section travelled to Martinique last week to give a presentation and conduct a workshop on Bermuda’s lionfish trapping work at a Fisheries and Aquaculture week. The trip was sponsored by the South Urban Community of Martinique. Dr. Pitt has previously presented results of the trapping experiments at Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute meetings.

The Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment, Jeanne Atherden, said, “The Marine Resources section is taking a necessary leading role in this area and the Government is committed to supporting this critical element of our marine conservation.”

For more information on the trapping experiments, the public is invited to contact the Marine Resources Section at 293-5600 or fisheries@gov.bm. The public is also encouraged to learn more about the Lionfish Control Plan and the work of the Lionfish Taskforce at lionfish.bm, the spokesperson added.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Go Fish says:

    Studies in other countries afflicted by the lionfish proved that they are smart and adapt to our hunting techniques, thereby making it almost impossible to catch them now. This was known a year ago perhaps, yet Bermudians continue oblivious, and will only come to the same end result the other nations did, which is even worse of a lionfish problem. You are actually training them to escape better. Let nature takes it course instead. Hunt some yes but not in some genocide or else you will end up with the “super-bacteria effect”

    • Experience says:

      Impossible to catch them?? Clearly you’ve never been lionfish hunting. lol. If we “let nature take its course” with these lionfish, eventually, there won’t be much underwater nature left.

  2. Wondering says:

    So what is the lionfish’s natural enemy? Surely something eats it. Otherwise it would have decimated its own natural habitat already!?!?!

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      There are some predators to the lion fish back in its native habitat, as it stands, none of our local predators that might fill that void, have shown any signs of developing the taste. We simply can’t expect our local environ to adjust to an apex animal when it took evolution to counter it in its own. It may eventually take time, locally, but in the mean time we can explore what measure we can take

    • Hope says:

      Lionfish do not originate in our Atlantic waters, but actually come from the cental Pacific Ocean. They were likely introduced in to the waters off of Miami by the fish keeping industry, and their numbers have increased dramatically as they have no natural predators in our waters. Groupers in the Caribbean have been videoed eating them, but they are not easy prey to catch. As far as I am aware there have been no known cases of a Bermuda Grouper preying on Lionfish. Our Groupers are smaller than those in the Caribbean.

      If we wait for the Lionfish to eat everything it can and run out of food source and starve itself, then we’ll be without any ocean life. Lionfish specifically prey on young fish that do not recognise them as a predator, and sadly when young fish are killed then they do not grow to become breeding adults.

      The BUEI has a great exhibit on the Lionfish, it’s definitely worth a visit, especially for children.

    • Anne Hyde says:

      Lionfish from the Pacific were accidentally introduced to the Atlantic. The Atlantic fish do not recognize the lionfish as a predator. The lionfish is a very serious predator that the other fish should swim away from, as they do in the Pacific but haven’t learned this yet in the Atlantic. So the lionfish can eat and eat without worry in Bermuda’s waters. The only predator to lionfish in the Atlantic is mankind. The local divers who have the special license to spear lionfish have been very successful in catching them thus far. Let’s get these on the menu and “Eat em to Beat em”. BTW, the meat of the fish is not poisonous, only the tips of the spines which can be trimmed off before preparing as a food.

    • lea says:

      Groupers, Moray eels, sharks. According to Wikipedia.

    • consider says:

      Some guys in the Caribbean are trying to train sharks to eat lionfish. They are feeding them off a spear hoping they will get a taste for it.

      • Joanna PItt says:

        Just for the record, trying to train predators to eat lionfish off a spear is a really dangerous idea. All this achieves is training the sharks to associate divers and spear fishers with food, and they then hassle humans at every opportunity in the hopes of getting fed. Such practices are discouraged.

  3. just wondering says:

    The problem is that there is nothing in the Atlantic that eat lionfish. They were released in south Florida in around 1985 and have now exploded into the Caribbean and the Gulf. Also reef fish don’t recognize them as predators so they are able to feed and breed without competition.