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


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.


Cozumel in Roatan’s Future

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Cozumel is Mexico’s largest island, nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, measuring in at 28 miles long & only 10 miles wide. Cozumel itself was a sleepy little fishing community until 1961, when Jacques Cousteau declared the island one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world. By 1970, Cozumel’s population had reached 10,000 and today the island boasts a population of more than 75,000. Over the years, the recreational scuba industry grew and Cozumel became a Mecca for divers with visitor numbers swelling annually. In recent years, the cruise ship industry has boomed, and with the island being the gateway to the Caribbean, ships now deliver an estimated 10,000 people daily to this once quiet island.

Once regarded as the jewel of Mexico for its pristine reefs, due to unregulated development and unsustainable practices, the reefs fringing the island have rapidly degraded and the island’s main tourist attraction has shifted from diving to golf. From a paradise to an environmentalist’s nightmare in a manner of a few decades, one must wonder, “Is Roatan on the road to a similar fate? “While those living on Roatan would never dream of comparing our island with Cozumel, the reality may be gradually emerging as more and more tourists visit the island. With direct international flights, the Bay Islands are no longer only accessible to backpackers but cruise-shippers, day trippers and jet-setters alike. With the building of additional docks to accommodate yet more cruise ships and the continuous sprouting up of new developments, this island paradise is rapidly reflecting Cozumel’s blunder. As the island evolves and the concrete is laid, how can we carelessly dismiss Roatan’s tropical splendor and magnificent reefs? It is time to truly demand that we “Keep Roatan Beautiful.”