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January 30, 2009
Dangerous predator may be lurking near local waters

Viclene Matthews 30.JAN.09

A greedy predator that has the potential to destroy local fish stock and marine life may be lurking close to the waters of St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Unconfirmed reports reaching Searchlight indicate that the Red Lion Fish was spotted off Carriacou some time last week by a diver.

The Red Lion fish, a species indigenous to the Pacific Ocean, has the ability to destroy the local fish population and severely impact our coral reef ecosystem, reports indicate. Research suggests that one Red lionfish can reduce young juvenile fish population by 79 per cent in five weeks.

Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan said that Carriacou is not part of our jurisdiction and he is not aware of the Red Lion Fish sighting.

Ryan said that he is conscious of the effects that the Red Lion Fish can have on our marine life, and told SEARCHLIGHT that his department is presently investigating the impact and dangers the fish can have on humans when they come in contact with them.

He urged persons to kill the predator if they come in contact with it while spear fishing or diving. Ryan disclosed that he will be making a statement to the press on the issue soon.

Grenada’s Chief Fisheries Office Justin Rennie told SEARCHLIGHT that he has not received any reports of the predator being in his country’s waters. Despite this, he said the matter of the Red Lion Fish is being dealt with at the CARICOM level. He also stated that reports have been made to the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

“There is not much you can do to eradicate it, because it is in the wild,” Rennie told Searchlight, and said that he believes that Caribbean countries do not have any mechanism in place to help get rid of the fish, but noted that it’s “a matter we have to be cognizant about and to determine what are the impacts.”

Diver and operator of Indigo Dive Kay Wilson is calling on persons not to confuse the Red Lion Fish with the Scorpion Fish which is called “Lionfish” by locals.

According to reports, this colourful carnivore also has the ability to significantly impact our tourism industry. Reports indicate that dive and snorkel sites in the Bahamas had to close because their natural attractions were destroyed by this fish.

The Red Lion fish is believed to have found its way to the Florida Cays presumably through an aquarium that was destroyed by a hurricane.

The female Red Lion fish has the potential to produce 30,000 eggs every three months. It is equipped with venomous dorsal and anal spines which can cause extreme pain when they come in contact with humans. It can also cause nausea, breathing difficulties and, in some cases, death.