The problems with overfishing

Friday, March 11th, 2011

People often ask the RMP about the sustainability of fishing in Roatan’s waters. As with most coastal communities, fishing is more than a sport on Roatan, it’s a way of life. It is also the primary source of food and income for many. While Roatan has few large commercial fishing vessels, which are responsible for much of the world’s overfishing, our marine species are still in danger. Since the first people landed on Roatan, the sea has provided much of the food for island’s inhabitants. In 1960, the population of Roatan was around 10,000 people. Today it’s estimated to be as high as 75,000. As the population has increased, so too has the need for food. This has created stress on the surrounding marine ecosystems. In some areas, it’s nearly impossible to find a mature snapper or grouper. The species’ populations are further depleted when juveniles that haven’t yet reproduced are harvested. This is also true of conch and lobster which used to be in abundance on Roatan. Sadly, conch are now considered an endangered species in some waters and spiny lobsters populations are dwindling. It’s no longer possible for Roatan’s inhabitants to live off abunthe sea like they used to; there are just too many people and not enough fish.

Pelagic species are under pressure from a growing sports and charter fishing industry. In the past six months, Roatan has been host to four fishing tournaments. Only one, the 11th Roatan Fishing Tournament, was catch and release. For the first time this year, all billfish caught during the contest were released. This is a big step forward in conserving Roatan’s billfish as White and Blue Marlin populations worldwide are rapidly approaching extinction, with an 88% decline in numbers since 1960. Roatan’s other tournaments focused on wahoo, barracuda, and tuna. All species of tuna have undergone drastic declines in population due to the increase of fishing and some are threatened with extinction. The RMP encourages organizers of upcoming tournaments to enforce minimum size regulations and maximum catch limits to ensure a healthy future for Roatan’s waters.


Lionfish: The Other White Meat

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The Lionfish are invading! No, it’s not the tag line from a bad sci-fi movie, it’s what scientists around the Caribbean have been saying for years. The Lionfish invasion is so destructive because they eat everything in sight and have very few predators, leaving only humans to control their populations. The only hope of reducing the number of lionfish is to create a demand for them at the dinner table.

Most of the world’s edible fish species are severely overfished. Lionfish is the perfect way to still enjoy fish while avoiding the guilt associated with eating species such as grouper, snapper, and other reef fish. Though lionfish are venomous, the toxin is in the spines, not the meat. If stabbed, the venom is not fatal but will cause pain and swelling near the wound. There are several methods to safely filet a lionfish. The easiest technique is to cut off the dorsal and pectoral spines using scissors. Once the spines are removed, lionfish can be safely and easily prepared like any other fish. Another way is to freeze the entire fish for 2 hours to neutralize the venomous spines.

Lionfish are tasty, with white, delicate, and flakey meat. They are a perfect substitute for grouper and are a completely sustainable and guilt-free fish to eat. There are even Lionfish cookbooks, containing recipes to use the meat in every conceivable way. Most of the recipes can also be found free online. Perhaps the most tasty and popular dish is lionfish ceviche. Other popular ways to cook lionfish include sautéing with garlic and butter or frying. Some people even use it in sushi. So do your part to protect Roatan’s reef by eating lionfish.

The Roatan Marine Park has created a television and radio public service announcement to inform people about the benefits of eating lionfish and how to safely clean them. We will also be visiting the local communities to perform demonstrations on how to cook and clean lionfish.