The Issue with Lionfish

While there are a number of both exotic and endangered species of fish within the neighbouring waters of Caye Caulker, The Pterois Antennata do not receive half the same compassion. Due to their destructive nature of local species, avid fisherman seek to cull local population of Lionfish every March during the now two year running ‘Lionfish Derby’ It is an event that comes with just as much a competitive spirit as it does a principled one, though subjectively it does not seem so when there is a beautiful fish impaled on a spear. This debate is one that lends into the argument of certain species that are protected due to their commercial value to tourism and threat to humans as opposed to their contribution and place within the ecosystem.

Lionfish are fascinating animals to observe in the water, though too much intrigue will almost undoubtedly be met with much lesser a courteous introduction. Lionfish are able to produce venom that can be displayed through their needle like dorsal fins, stinging humans as well as other animals in the water. The extent of their venom can cause humans to become very ill, cause respiratory difficulties and severe nausea at the best of times. Due to this fact Lionfish are killed both recreationally and vigilantly, protecting various species of both ecologically and commercially important fish, invertebrates in reefs, mangroves and seagrass habitats. There have been cases of fatalities from Lionfish venom, although this rarity comes with the extent of exposure and stupidity of the curious swimmer.

Lionfish can reproduce from 2 to 15,000 eggs during mating, making their populace a big issue for areas affected by their veracious grazing and predatory aggression. Local restaurant’s and the like on Caye Caulker have now endorsed Lionfish on their menus in a bid to assist efforts of their growing numbers at the expense of marine life, though it does taste more like Lobster than it does a fish. Their appearance may not be relative to their taste, though the Lionfish does not have scales, has more of a rubbery than slimy texture and requires effective removal of their spines before eating.

The theme of marine conservation is one to appear frequently throughout the subject matter of this project, though the matter of Lionfish is one that presents a question to the table of both tourist and ecological justification. If the parameters of the food chain would somehow shift in the near future, exotic species being at the forefront of predatorily behaviour, would tourists come to turn their attention to their disposal or revel in their beauty?

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