TIME: Taming the Lionfish

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Taming the Lionfish:

Can Predators Be Trained to Control an Invasive Species?

By Christy Choi – May 10 2011 – TIME Magazine

In March, on a small reef off the coast of Honduras, a group of pioneering conservationists started teaching sharks how to hunt. A half-dead lionfish, speared earlier by a diver, was released into the midst of a swirling mass of grey reef sharks. Sensing the lionfish’s final twitches, the sharks descended on the weakened prey. Unsuspectingly, a second lionfish wandered into the frenzy. Within seconds, it, too, was gone. All that remained was a trail of mush emanating from a shark’s toothy maw.

Floating in the nearby blue, photographer Antonio Busiello was there to capture the moment he and members of the Roatan Marine Park, a grassroots community organization in Honduras, had spent three months waiting for. “We weren’t sure the sharks would hunt on their own,” Busiello recalls from his studio in Los Angeles. Although not yet common behavior, the reef sharks’ voluntary hunt brings hope of a new way of battling the long-problematic proliferation of lionfish in the region. The aquarium pet turned invader, with it’s voracious appetite, prolific breeding and territorial nature, has locals and scientists up and down the Caribbean and Northern Atlantic worried about the threat it could pose to coastal ecosystems and economies by wiping out the stocks of small fish in an already stressed ecosystem.

Read more at: 
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2070599,00.html#ixzz1MMPLz8WQ


Finning Sharks in Honduran Waters

Monday, April 26th, 2010

For a prosperous future, Honduras needs to solidify its identity as a leader in the global community of environmentally conscious countries that rely on long-term management plans for ecotourism. Protecting sharks as a flagship species of healthy reefs in Honduras is one way to win international approval and keep the tourists coming here.

Shark finning is an unsustainable method of commercial fishing, non-traditional, wasteful, and it is here in Honduras. The process involves cutting the fins from live sharks while at sea and dumping the living body overboard to drown. This wastes approximately 97% of each animal while preserving storage space on the boat to continue fishing for shark fins. Additionally, by-catch on the long lines set to catch sharks commonly results in 70% morbidity of everything caught, turtles, fish and sharks. The value of shark fins to the Asian market has exploded, due largely to the expansion of trade and growth of the Chinese economy and population.

Honduras is now joining countries like the USA, South Africa, Brazil, India and Costa Rica in taking the steps to protect coastal sharks from being killed for their fins. The Fisheries Department (DIGEPESCA) is addressing this threat to the marine legacy of the Honduran people as it now is working to pass a law banning the finning of targeted coastal species. Regarding the nurse and whale sharks, in 1999 Honduras led the way as one of the first countries to protect this species.

Of note, the new law addresses sharks commonly caught in the coastal plains, leaving reef sharks and hammerhead species vulnerable. With the growth of consciousness in the Bay Islands of the value of healthy reefs, fish populations and indeed sharks, to tourism, we can continue to work towards a marine management plan that ensures Hondurans a bright future as a destination for the environmentally conscious traveler.