Lionfish have become a definite problem around the Manzanillo-Gandoca Wildlife Refuge on the Caribbean Coast, and one Costa Rican fishing association is dealing with it.
The Southern Caribbean Artisanal Fisherman’s Association has been put on the alert due to an overabundance of Pterois, or the fish commonly known as the Lionfish. The Lionfish is not native to the waters of Costa Rica, and the species actually hails from the South East Asian waters of Indonesia. The fish is venomous, and has a negative effect on the populations of endemic fish. It can also be a danger to swimmers.
When the Lionfish arrived in Costa Rican waters in 2009, the local fish population saw a dramatic decline. The species of endemic fish and aquatic creatures that were affected the most included snapper, lobster and shrimp, which has had a definitively negative effect on fisherman’s potential profitability. The Southern Caribbean Artisanal Fisherman’s Association and other groups that fish the area are compelled to get rid of the nuisance.
The plan for combating Lionfish in the Caribbean waters is appropriately named, “Protocol for the Capture, Extraction and Disposal of Lionfish,” and the Environment Ministry already began enacting some parts of the plan as of last year. Fishing nets and regular inspections of the nets to collect the caught Lionfish. The nets have been especially prepared by adding a type of bait which attracts Lionfish.
Lionfish are able to so widely expand their populations, because they are prolific reproducers. One impregnated female Lionfish can lay up to as many as 2 million eggs in a year. A full grown Lionfish can grow as large as 15 inches, and a population of the fierce fish can eliminate large groups of local fish when it moves into a new area. The Lionfish will regularly eat two fish per minute as the horde moves through a new territory, thus decimating local populations that fisherman rely on.
Another idea to combat the problem is to educate local fishermen on how to market the catch, and there are also new dive fishing competitions being promoted to help combat the problem. Tourism to the area is also hurt by the presence of Lionfish, because the sting of a Lionfish can be painful and cause difficulty in breathing.